Three crews are scheduled for Thursday in China Shenzhou-12 | Space News:

Beijing is counting on the mission of its first crew in the last five years amid a new space race.

On Thursday, China will send three people into space on a mission of its first crew of almost five years, which is part of an ambitious plan to complete the space station by the end of next year.

China is expected to launch the aircraft Shenzhou-12 9 a.m. Thursday. On the 22nd (01:22 Greenwich Mean Time) from Wuquan, northwest of Gansu, a Chinese space agency official said on Wednesday.

The astronauts are 56-year-old Nei Heisheng, 54-year-old Liu Boming, and 45-year-old Tang Hongbo, Ji Yi Kiming, assistant director of the China Passenger Space Agency, told reporters. Nini will be the oldest man sent to space in China.

Shenzhou-12, which means “Divine Ship”, will be the third of 11 missions required to complete the Chinese space station by 2022.

At least four of the planned 11 missions will be organized, possibly up to 12 Chinese astronauts.

China began construction of the space station this year, the first of three modules at the end of April, the largest with the launch of Tianhe.

Shenzhou-12 crew will live in the port Tianhe, which means “Heavenly Harmony”, 16.6 meters (55 feet) long և 4.2 meters (14 feet) in diameter in three months.

The oldest Chinese astronaut to lead a mission

Nie, who hails from the central province of Hubei and is a former air force pilot, will lead the mission.

According to Xinhua, the Shenzhen-12 will be Nie’s third space tour since the Shenzhou-6 mission in 2005, and the Shenzhou-10 in 2013.

This will be Liu’s second mission to space, his first will be the “Shenzhou-7” mission in 2008. This will be Tang’s first voyage into space.

There are also three reserve astronauts for the mission.

Although no women are scheduled for the Shenzhen-12 mission, according to the Global Times, they are expected to take part in each subsequent mission. [Greg Baker/AFP]

The last flight of the Chinese crew was in 2016, when two men, Chen Dong ing-ing Haipeng, were flown by the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft Tiangong-2, the prototype of the space station, where they later stayed for about a month.

Although no women are scheduled for the Shenzhou-12 mission, according to the Global Times, they are expected to take part in each subsequent mission.

Two women, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping, were selected in the second group of Chinese astronauts in 2011 after the first batch of 14 men in the mid-1990s. In 2012, Liu was China’s first woman in space, and Wang was the youngest, aged 33, in 2013.

Chinese astronauts had a relatively low international reputation.

US law banning NASA from communicating with China means that its astronauts did not visit the more than two-decade-old International Space Station, which was visited by more than 240 men and women of different nationalities.

China is accelerating its space program to compete with the West, including the United States.

Beijing aims to become a major space power by 2030 turning space into the new frontier of its competition with the United States,

In May, it became the second country to land a rover on Mars, the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon, two years after landing.

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