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China launched its longest-ever crewed space mission

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China launched its longest-ever crewed space mission Monday (7:30 p.m. Sunday ET), according to CNN

The Shenzhou 11 or "heavenly vessel" launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

The state broadcaster, CCTV, live streamed the launch. 

The two astronauts on board, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, are set to dock with the Tiangong-2 space lab, which was launched last month. 

During their 33-day stay in space, 30 of those days will be spent conducting experiments related to medicine, physics and biology, according to CNN. 

China has completed a total of five manned space missions since October of 2003.  

China's ultimate goal is to have a permanent 20-ton space station in orbit by 2022, just a few years before the International Space Station retires in 2024, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 are designed to be the prototypes for the larger, permanent space station. 


China's first space lab, Tiangong-1, will likely reenter Earth's atmosphere in 2017. 

Previously, some experts speculated that China had lost control of the lab, but Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, told CNN that is not the case. 

"Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling," she said in a press conference last month. 


If China does achieve its ultimate goal of having a permanent space station, when ISS goes out of service, it could be the only country with a permanent space presence. 

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