China launched into space the "celestial ship" on Monday (7:30 p.m. Sunday ET) from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in the Gobi desert. The launch was shown on state television CCTV.
This is the longest for China's space flight with a crew on Board. On Board are two astronauts - Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. They will dock with the space lab Tiangong-2, which was launched last month.
Ching and Chen will remain in space for a total of 33 days, 30 of which will hold in a laboratory space which will host experiments related to medicine, physics and biology. Since October 2003, China has completed five manned flights of space ships - last one was in 2013 and lasted 15 days.
Tiangong-2, and its predecessor the Tiangong-1, are prototypes for the ultimate goal of China's permanent space station, which is expected to be sent into orbit in 2022.
"Tiangong is a precursor of bench opportunities, building a large space station was always the ultimate goal for the Shenzhou program," said Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor at the naval war College, specializing in space programs and space security.
The tiangong-1, the first space laboratory of China, expected to fall in the Earth's atmosphere in late 2017. Some experts believe that China has lost control of the ship. However, Wu Ping, Deputy Director of the manned space engineering office, played down the likelihood of damage. "Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn during the fall," she said at a press conference last month, adding that it is unlikely to affect aircraft operations or causes damage to the earth.
Since 2011, the U.S. Congress has banned NASA to communicate with the space program of China because of national security issues. In subsequent decades, China is pumping huge amounts of money and resources in research and training. Future plans include sending a robotic probe to Mars, and potentially a manned mission to the moon.
sections: Politics, World News