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On Thursday, a Chinese rocket lifted off from a launchpad in the Gobi Desert, sending three astronauts to an orbital space station under construction in China for a historic mission. On the second floor of the Long March, fire and huge dust could be seen in the distance.

As the space race between China and the United States and Russia continues to accelerate, the rocket carrying the Shenzhou 12 capsule roars out from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, marking the first time that China has sent humans into space in five years. The chief designer of the Rockets, it’s hard to watch him go. “We put too much energy into it,” he told NBC News, comparing the Rockets to raising children. “But I am very happy to see him complete his duties within 10 minutes.” 

Shenzhou 12, or “Shenzhou” at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China on Wednesday, is one of the 11 tasks planned to complete the construction of the 70-ton Tiangong. day. Astronauts will stay in the main Tianhe section of the space station for three months. This is China’s longest manned mission to date, conducting spacewalks, maintenance work, and critical testing of life support and other systems.

Ji Qiming, deputy director of the China Manned Space Administration, said at a press conference earlier on Wednesday: “I believe that in the near future when the Chinese space station is completed, we will see Chinese and foreign astronauts performing missions together.” “Exploring the vast universe, carrying out space activities, and building a space power is our never-ending space dream,” he said. 

China has long been frozen out of the International Space Station (ISS). The project was launched 20 years ago and is the ultimate manifestation of the reconciliation between Russia and the United States after the Cold War. U.S. concerns about the confidentiality of China’s space program and its connections with the military are largely responsible for this situation, but the aging International Space Station, which accommodates astronauts from the U.S, Russia, and several other countries, will be demolished after 2024. 

As relations deteriorate, Moscow hinted that it may withdraw from cooperation with the International Space Station in 2025, which means that China may be the only country with a functioning space station. The Russian Space Agency Roscosmos also signed an agreement with the China National Space Administration in March to establish a base on or around the moon, which they call the International Lunar Science Station.

Before the launch, Chinese astronauts met with reporters in a glass cabin on Wednesday to ensure that they were kept sterile. Waiting for his third space trip, 54-year-old Liu Boming participated in the 2011 mission, which included China’s first spacewalk. Wu Hongbo, who was selected for training in 2010, is waiting for his first-star journey. The execution in South Carolina was blocked until a firing squad was formed. “There is pressure,” he said. “But where there is pressure, there is motivation.” He added that he “has confidence in himself and confidence in our team.” 

After the successful launch of the Tianhe main module last month, state media reported that President Xi Jinping wrote to congratulate the Chinese engineers on their breakthrough and gain a place in the Chinese government. After NASA and others accused Beijing of taking action, he was forced to defend himself by recklessly allowing booster rockets from the mission to fall to Earth in a seemingly uncontrolled manner.

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