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China to launch high-stakes crewed mission to space

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(Last Updated On: June 16, 2021)

China will send three astronauts into orbit on Thursday in a high-stakes mission, the first of four crewed space flights to complete the country’s space station by the end of next year.

China will launch Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo into orbit aboard the spacecraft Shenzhou-12 at 9:22 a.m. (0122 GMT) on June 17 from Jiuquan in northwestern Gansu province.

Nie, 56, a former air force pilot, will be the oldest Chinese astronaut to go to space.

Shenzhou-12, meaning “Divine Vessel”, is the third of 11 missions needed to build China’s space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules.

The Shenzhou-12 crew are to live on the Tianhe, which means “Harmony of the Heavens”, a cylinder 16.6 m (55 ft) long and 4.2 m (14 ft) in diameter.

The three-month stay for Nie, Liu and Tang will be the longest for any Chinese astronauts, and one focus will be seeing how the men handle their relatively long time in orbit.

“The (mission) is longer this time, and not only do we have to set up the core module – this ‘home’ in space – we’ve to carry out a series of pivotal technical tests,” Nie told reporters in Jiuquan.

“This mission is more arduous and the challenges are greater.”

Shenzhou-12 will be Nie’s third space outing, the second for Liu, 54, and the first for Tang, 45.

On Liu’s Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, his first, he almost did not get to perform a space walk to plant the Chinese flag on the exterior of the spacecraft.

Liu, with the help of another astronaut, used a crowbar to pry open the hatch after it refused to budge.

“We experienced some dangerous situations and encountered some difficulties on that mission,” Liu said on Wednesday.

“The amount of time spent outside the cabin on this mission is much longer, and there will be many rounds of extra-vehicular activity. The mission has thus become extremely complex and tough.”

Chinese astronauts have had a comparatively low international profile.

U.S. legislation bars NASA from any cooperation with China, and Chinese astronauts have not been to the more than two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS), which has been visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.

The ISS may be decommissioned in 2024 if the project does not receive new funding, and China could end up being the operator of the only space station in Earth’s orbit.

“After the completion of the Chinese space station, in the near future, we will see both Chinese and foreign astronauts jointly participate in the flight of the Chinese space station,” said Ji Qiming, assistant director at the China Manned Space Agency, told reporters in Jiuquan.

China’s space launches drew intense international attention last month after remnants of the rocket that carried the Tianhe module into space fell back to Earth with no official forecast of their expected landing location until literally the final minutes.

“We’re willing to carry out more extensive international exchanges and cooperation with other countries on the issue of debris from spacecraft and in space,” Ji said.

Backup astronauts for the mission on Thursday are Zhai Zhigang, 54, Wang Yaping, 41 and Ye Guangfu, 40.

China’s last crewed flight mission was in 2016 when two men – Chen Dong and Jing Haipeng – were sent via the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft to Tiangong-2, a prototype of the space station where they later stayed for about a month.

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Afghan national arrested over death of three women in Austria

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2024)

Austrian police have arrested a 27-year-old Afghan national suspected of killing three women in a brothel in the capital, Vienna, on Friday.

BBC News reported that the victims were stabbed to death, and the suspect was found hiding near the brothel with a knife in his hand.

The motive for the killings is currently unclear but the man has been questioned.

Another woman and her daughter were killed in an unrelated incident in Vienna in a 24-hour period. Investigators believe the girl’s father was responsible.

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Acting FM Muttaqi leaves for Turkmenistan

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2024)

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi has left for Turkmenistan for talks with officials of the neighboring country, it was announced Sunday.

Hafiz Zia Ahmad, Deputy Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on his X that Muttaqi, leading a delegation, traveled to Turkmenistan at the invitation of Rashid Murdov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, to discuss bilateral issues.

The delegation includes also officials of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, Railway Authority and Da Afghanistan Brehshna Sherkat.

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China regrets UN Doha meeting’s failure to have dialogue with IEA

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(Last Updated On: February 24, 2024)

China’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoyong, on Saturday regretted that the United Nations’ meeting in Doha on Afghanistan earlier this week failed to have dialogue with the Islamic Emirate.

Yue said on X that the meeting was useful for exchange of views and it made a call for more pragmatic engagement and dialogue with Afghanistan.

“Pity is Doha Afghanistan meeting again failed to have dialogu with Afghan interim government or DFA (IEA) as China and regional countries have been calling,” Yue said.

The envoy said that China called more humanitarian assistance, moderate governance, and women and girls’ education.

China also called on US take major responsibility for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, unfreeze Afghanistan’s overseas assets and lift unilateral sanctions.

China also stressed that it is ready to work harder with UN and regional partners especially through Afghanistan’s nonboring countries foreign ministerial meeting and other platforms to enhance engagement with Afghanistan to help for its peace, stability, reconstruction and common prosperity.

The UN had extended an invitation for IEA officials to participate, following their exclusion from the first meeting in May.

However, the Kabul government said they would not participate in the talks unless they could be the sole representative of Afghanistan at the meetings — to the exclusion of civil society groups.

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