China's Long March-2F carrier rocket transporting the manned spacecraft Shenzhou-11 blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwestern China's Gansu Province on October 17, 2016. / AFP / STR
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China launched its longest manned space mission Monday, sending two astronauts into orbit to spend a month aboard a space laboratory that is part of a broader plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022 .The astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or "Heavenly Palace 2", which was sent into space last month. It will be the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts, state media reported.In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1 .China has been working to develop its space program for military, commercial and scientific purposes, but is still playing catch-up to established space powers the United States and Russia.
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