Three Chinese astronauts docked at the country’s space station

Three Chinese astronauts docked at the country’s space station, marking a new milestone in Beijing’s drive to become a major space power.

The trio blasted off in a Long March-2F rocket at 0814 IMT from the Jiuquan launch center in north-western China’s Gobi desert, said broadcaster CCTV.

The team is tasked with “completing in-orbit assembly and construction of the space station”, as well as “commissioning of equipment” and conducting scientific experiments.

The spacecraft docked at the Tiangong station after about “seven hours of flight”.

Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace”, is expected to become fully operational by the end of the year. The completed station will be similar to the Soviet Mir station that orbited Earth from the 1980s until 2001.

China’s heavily promoted space program has already seen the nation land a rover on Mars and sends probes to the Moon.

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