China launched its longest manned space mission on Monday, sending two astronauts into orbit to spend a month aboard an space laboratory that is part of a broader plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022, Reuters reports. 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. Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power. 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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