China has sent two astronauts into orbit, where the pair will dock with the experimental Tiangong 2 space lab and spend 30 days carrying out a string of experiments aimed at advancing the country’s space program. On the occasion, President Xi Jinping congratulated the two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, saying that he hoped the mission would make new contributions to building up China as a space power.
This is going to be the longest manned space mission by China, which has recently pumped in huge funds to expand its space capabilities, writes the BBC. After Russia and the U.S., China is the third country to send crewed missions to space. In its pursuit to set up its own permanent space station, China has been sending additional modules to Tiangong 2 space lab and plans to make it fully operational by 2022.
In the past, the U.S. Defense Department has raised concern that China’s space program is aimed at preventing other countries from using space-based assets in a crisis, reports Reuters. However, China denies the allegations, asserting that its space activities are for peaceful purposes.