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BEIJING: China launched two astronauts into space Monday, official media said, on a mission to its orbiting laboratory as the country works towards setting up its own space station. The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft blasted off early in the morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It will take astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong two days to reach the Tiangong-2 space lab, or “Heavenly Palace-2”, which was launched in September.

They will remain on board for 30 days — the longest stay thus far by Chinese astronauts — to conduct tests on spacecraft-related technologies and scientific and engineering experiments, Xinhua said. Jing, the mission commander, was on his third trip into orbit and will celebrate his 50th birthday in space. “Although the job is challenging, risky and dangerous, there is nothing else I’d rather do,” he said, according to the China Daily.

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