China to launch first crew to new space station
Astronauts blasting off on Thursday for China's first crewed mission to its new space station will have a choice of 120 different types of food and "space treadmills" for exercise, China's space agency said, AFP reports.
The mission will be China's longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years, as Beijing pushes forward with its ambitious programme to establish itself as a space power.
The astronauts will spend three months on the Tiangong station, which has separate living modules for each of them as well as a shared bathroom, dining area, and a communication centre to send emails and allow video calls with ground control.
The trio will be able to work off their range of dinner options -- which officials assured reporters were all nutritious and tasty -- on the special treadmills or exercise bikes.
The Long March-2F rocket that will get them there will lift off at 9:22 am local time (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China's Gobi desert, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said Wednesday.
"Over the past decades, we have written several glorious chapters in China's space history and this mission embodies the expectations of the people and the party itself," the mission's commander, Nie Haisheng, told reporters at a press conference.
His team has undergone over 6,000 hours of training, including hundreds of underwater somersaults in full space gear, to get accustomed to their suits for spacewalks.
Nie was among the first batch of Chinese astronauts selected for training in 1998, and has already been on two space missions.