China launches the third and final component of the space station

BEIJING – China on Monday launched the third and final module to complete its permanent space station, completing more than a decade of work to maintain a permanent crew presence in orbit.

Mengtian was blasted into space at 15:39 (07:39 GMT) on Monday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan Province.

A large crowd of amateur photographers, space enthusiasts and various observers watched the takeoff from a nearby beach.

Many waved Chinese flags and wore T-shirts with China-reflective writing deep national pride invested in the space program and the technological progress it represents.

Mengtian, or “Heavenly Dream,” joins Wentian as the second laboratory module for the station, collectively known as the Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace.” Both are connected to the Tianhe main module where the crew lives and works.

Like its predecessors, Mengtian was launched aboard a Long March-5B Y4 launch vehicle — a member of China’s most powerful launch vehicle family — from the coastal Wenchang Space Base on the tropical island of Hainan Province.

According to the China Manned Space Agency, Mengtian was expected to spend 13 hours in flight before reaching Tiangong, which is inhabited by a crew of two male and one female astronauts.

Chen Dong, Cai Xuzhe and Liu Yang arrived in early June for a six-month stay on board, during which they will complete the assembly of the station, conduct spacewalks and conduct additional experiments.

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