China has launched a crew to its new space station 'to rival ISS' as space race rages on

CHINA has successfully launched a three person crewed mission to build its own space station and they've now docked with the core module that's already in orbit.

It's planned four crewed missions to assemble it's own version of the International Space Station and the first manned one blasted off this Thursday.

State-run media revealed which astronauts are on the maiden mission to create what's being called the "Heavenly Palace".

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are taking part.

They were launched into space from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre located in the Gobi Desert at 09:22 Beijing time (01:22 GMT).

Nie is the commander on the mission.

It has been Nie's third journey into space and the first time China has sent humans to space in five years.

A Long March-2F rocket was used to blast their Shenzhou-12 craft into space.

The main section of China’s Tiangong space station was put in orbit back in April.

It's floating 236 miles above the Earth.

Mr Nie said before the launch: ""I have a lot of expectations.

"We need to set up our new home in space and test a series of new technologies.

"So, the mission is tough and challenging. I believe with the three of us working closely together, doing thorough and accurate operations, we can overcome our challenges. We have the confidence to complete the mission."

Tiangong literally translates to "Heavenly Palace"

It made more headlines for the fact part of a rocket that carried it up there made an uncontrolled re-entry to Earth and just missed the Maldives.

In May, a cargo craft took food, fuel and equipment to the first piece of Tiangong.

That rocket also sent bits of debris crashing back down into the Pacific Ocean.

The supplies will be used by the crew when they get there for their three month mission of building.

The module of the Tiangong space station that's already in orbit is called Tianhe.

It's 54 foot long and about 14 foot wide.

The crew should have everything that they need to survive for three months already at the station.

They'll also be able to use the space in their own craft that will be docked to the side of the station.

China has planned another 11 missions in the next year and a half to finish off building the space station.

Most of these will not feature any crew but at least three more manned missions are planned for crew rotation purposes.

Tiangong will have a lifespan of around ten years.

It will only be about one fifth of the size of the ISS.

The ISS, made by the US, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan, is set to retire in 2024.

However, Nasa said it may function until 2028.

With the initial retirement date only about three years away, there could be a period when China's Tiangong is the only functional space station in orbit.

What is the ISS?

Here’s what you need to know about the International Space Station…

  • The International Space Station, often abbreviated to ISS, is a large space craft that orbits Earth and houses astronauts who go up there to complete scientific missions
  • Many countries worked together to build it and they work together to use it
  • It is made up of many pieces, which astronauts had to send up individually on rockets and put together from 1998 to 2000
  • Ever since the year 2000, people have lived on the ISS
  • Nasa uses the station to learn about living and working in space
  • It is approximately 250 miles above Earth and orbits around the planet just like a satellite
  • Living inside the ISS is said to be like living inside a big house with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gym, lots of science labs and a big bay window for viewing Earth

In other space news, the European Space Agency has revealed it will be sending a probe called EnVision to study the planet Venus.

Scientist Brian Cox believes there could be 200 billion alien civilisations in the universe.

And, the world’s first reality show filmed in space will follow a contestant on a 10-day trip to the ISS in 2023.

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