JIUQUAN: The first astronauts arrived at China’s new space station on Thursday (Jun 17) in the country’s longest crewed mission to date, a landmark step in establishing Beijing as a major space power.
The trio blasted off on a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China’s Gobi desert, and their craft docked at the Tiangong station around seven hours later, where they will spend the next three months.
State broadcaster CCTV showed a live feed from inside the spacecraft during the journey, with the three astronauts lifting their helmet visors after it reached orbit as one smiled and waved at the camera.
Another floated a pen just off his lap in zero-gravity as he browsed the flight manual.
Around seven hours after lift-off, space officials confirmed that the craft had docked with Tianhe, the core module of the country’s new space station.
The Shenzhou-12 craft has “successfully docked with the forward port of the core module” of the Tiangong station, said the China Manned Space Agency, as state TV showed live footage.
At a ceremony before blast-off, the three astronauts, already wearing their space suits, greeted a crowd of supporters and space workers, who sang the patriotic song Without The Chinese Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.