In a major development, China has launched a new rocket and a prototype deep-space spacecraft. The state media reported the launch successful which paves the way for the country’s ambitions to operate a permanent space station and sending astronauts to Moon.

As per Xinhua, a Long March 5B rocket took off from the Wenchang launch site on the southern island of Hainan. The rocket is a massive vehicle with four strap-on boosters that provide extra thrust at liftoff. Aboard the Long March 5 was a special prototype spacecraft that is somewhat akin to the deep-space Orion capsule NASA has been developing to people to the Moon and beyond.

Eight minutes after the launch, the unmanned prototype spacecraft separated successfully and entered its planned orbit, Xinhua reported. A test version of a cargo return capsule also separated from the rocket successfully.

China hopes the craft will transport astronauts to a space station by 2022— and eventually to the Moon. The United States is so far the only country to have sent humans to the Moon but so far, China has also not only successfully sent satellites into orbit and astronauts into space but also landed a rover to the far side of the Moon last year.

The successful maiden flight of the 849 tonnes and 54-metre Long March 5B should pave way for its future plans. The next big mission for China is to land a probe on Mars that is expected to liftoff this year.

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Also, the assembly of the Tiangong space station is expected to begin this year and finish in 2022. The name of the space station means Heavenly Palace and it will have three modules with living and working quarters and two annexes for scientific experiments.

China space exploration plans include sending an astronaut to the Moon in about a decade and build a base on the lunar surface. Meanwhile, its lunar rover on the far side has driven about 450 metres so far.

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World news – GB – China on track to send astronauts to Moon; new rocket’s test launch successful

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