China, on Tuesday, launched a new rocket, that is part of its ambitious plan to operate a permanent space station and eventually send astronauts to the Moon. A new large carrier rocket, Long March 5B, took off from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan, the China Manned Space Agency reported. Eight minutes later, an unmanned prototype spaceship successfully separated and entered its planned orbit. Besides, a test version of a cargo return capsule also separated from the rocket.
The Long March 5B, which has enough room for six astronauts compared to three in the previous model, is also expected to carry a spacecraft that is supposed to transport the astronauts to the permanent space station and the historic trip to the Moon that China plans to complete by the year 2022.
"The mission will test the key technologies of the new manned spaceship such as the control of its re-entry into the atmosphere, heat shielding and recovery technology," said Yang Qing, a designer of the spaceship with the China Academy of Space Technology.
The United States, so far, is the only country to have successfully sent humans to the Moon. But Beijing has made huge strides in its effort to catch up, sending astronauts into space, satellites into orbit and a rover to the far side of the Moon.
But Beijing has made huge strides in its effort to catch up, sending astronauts into space, satellites into orbit and a rover to the far side of the Moon. The country has launched several spacecraft since 1999, the Shenzhou, which were modelled after Russia's Soyuz.
(With Inputs from AFP)