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China’s Youngest-Ever Astronauts Embark on 6-Month Space Mission

China's Youngest-Ever Astronauts Embark on 6-Month Space Mission
The crew – Jiang Xinlin (left) Tang Shengjie (centre) and Tang Hongbo – is the youngest ever to travel to the space station [Pedro Pardo/AFP]

In a groundbreaking moment for China’s ambitious space program, the country’s youngest-ever astronauts have embarked on a historic space mission to the Tiangong space station. The crew of the Shenzhou-17, consisting of three skilled astronauts, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 11:14 am on Thursday morning, aiming to stay in space for an impressive six months.

Leading the mission is 48-year-old former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, who brings invaluable experience from his participation in China’s first crewed mission to Tiangong in 2021. The average age of the crew is 38, reflecting the nation’s commitment to involving a diverse range of skilled individuals in its space endeavors. Tang is joined by Tang Shengjie, 33, and Jiang Xinlin, 35, marking their inaugural journey into space.

This endeavor is part of China’s extensive space program, propelled by significant investments to rival the space exploration efforts of the United States and Russia. With eyes set on the moon, China aims to send people to Earth’s natural satellite by 2030.

The Shenzhou-17’s launch follows the completion of the Tiangong space station in late 2022, designed to accommodate up to three astronauts at an orbital altitude of 450km for over 15 years. As China continues to make strides in space exploration, the world watches in anticipation of the scientific advancements and achievements that lie ahead.

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