The Chinese Shenzhou-17 mission began, with the launch broadcast live by the CCTV network from Jiuquan, north-west China, shortly after 11am local time (5am in Italy). On board the rocket a team of three astronauts n the youngest average age since the construction of the space station, equal to 38 years. The mission aims to send another crew to the Tiangong space station, an initiative part of the ambitious Dragon program which aims to send its astronauts to the Moon by 2030.
The Long March 2F rocket, 20 stories high, was launched at 11.14 local time (5.14 in Italy), in line with forecasts: the Shenzhou 17 mission, the twelfth Chinese manned space flight, took off from the Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, in the Gobi Desert. CCTV showed images of the mission commander, Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo, who with Lieutenant Colonel Tang Shengjie and Senior Lieutenant Colonel Jiang Xinlin, were sitting inside the spacecraft which will fly for about six and a half hours before to reach the Tiangong space station, now orbiting about 400 kilometers above Earth. Docking is planned at the front door of the Tianhe main module, the main body of the station. The Shenzhou 17 team will meet colleagues from the Shenzhou 16 mission, which has been in orbit for almost five months. Both crews will spend about four days together for the handover: the astronauts of Shenzhou 16, in fact, will return to Earth. The new crew will live and work inside the space station for about six months before leaving around April, having among their operational tasks those of carrying out scientific experiments and technological demonstrations, conducting spacewalks to install equipment and keeping the orbital outpost active, monitor the operational performance of the space station and obtain relevant data, as well as help review the support capabilities of ground facilities, according to Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency. In addition to these routine tasks, there is also a new assignment: performing experimental repair operations during spacewalks, Lin said in a briefing held Wednesday at the launch center