China launches spacecraft via largest carrier rocket

China’s new-generation spacecraft takes its maiden flight as the country moves one step closer towards landing a man on the moon

  • China successfully launched its largest carrier rocket ‘Long March-5B’ today
  • It contained a trial version of a new spacecraft designed to transport astronauts
  • The flight signals the country progress towards its ambitious lunar exploration
  • Beijing also aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station in 2022

China has successfully launched its largest carrier rocket with a new-generation spacecraft today, marking a significant progress for the country towards landing a man on the moon.

The Long March-5B carrier rocket took off at 6pm local time at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan, state broadcaster CCTV announced on Tuesday.

The spacecraft carried by the rocket is expected to one day transport astronauts to a space station that China plans to complete by 2022 – and eventually to the moon.  

China has successfully launched its largest carrier rocket with a new-generation spacecraft today, marking a significant progress for the country towards landing a man on the moon

The Long March-5B carrier rocket took off at 6pm local time on Tuesday at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan

A video released by CCTV shows the carrier rocket taking off from the ground as China tests its ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the moon. 

The launch was the first mission carried out by the Long March-5B, CCTV reported, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

The rocket carried a trial version of the country’s new manned spaceship – with no crew on board – into the planned orbit. 

The Long March-5B – with a length of about 53.7 metres (176.18 feet) and takeoff mass of about 849 tonnes – was also carrying a recyclable cargo return module.

The prototype vessel – designed for low-Earth orbit and deep space exploration – has enough room for six to seven astronauts, compared to three seats in the previous model, Chinese media report. 

China said in March that it was aiming to launch an experimental spacecraft without a crew as part of a broader spaceflight programme to shuttle astronauts to its future space station and for future manned space exploration. The launch was initially scheduled for mid-to-late April.

The country is also set to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station around 2022. 

China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

The nation has since been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.

The United States is so far the only country that have been able to send humans to the moon. 

China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States. FILE: Pictured, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei waves after emerging from the Shenzhou V capsule in Inner Mongolia on October 16, 2003

The United States is so far the only country that have been able to send humans to the moon. This file photo released by NASA shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. saluting the US flag on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission on July 20, 1969

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