Saturday, May 18, 2024

China sends 3 astronauts to Tiangong space station | NHK WORLD-JAPAN News

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China has sent three astronauts to its space station orbiting Earth, ahead of the country’s expected launch of an uncrewed mission to the moon.

The move is the latest in a space exploration race against the United States.

The rocket propelling the Shenzhou-18 spacecraft carrying the astronauts lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on Thursday.

The crew will replace a team currently staffing the Tiangong space station. They will spend about six months conducting experiments, repairing equipment and performing other activities.

Chinese media say the country will send the Chang’e-6 uncrewed lunar probe as early as next month to explore the far side of the Moon.

The United States and India are exploring areas near the moon’s South Pole, where scientists say ice may exist. That could be turned into drinking water and fuel.

China is aiming to put its astronauts on the moon by 2030. Officials with the US-led Artemis lunar exploration program are hoping to send astronauts back to the moon as early as in 2026.

China also says it expects a basic version of a lunar base to be completed by 2035. The project is led by China and Russia with the participation of other countries.

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