The first astronauts for China’s new space station blasted off Thursday for the country’s most extended crewed mission to date, a landmark step in establishing Beijing as a significant space power.
The trio launched on a Long March-2F rocket for the Tiangong station, where they will spend three months in a much-anticipated blast-off broadcast lives on state TV.
Lift-off happened at 9:22 am (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China’s Gobi desert, with the rocket rising in clouds of smoke against a blue sky.
After about 10 minutes, it reached orbit and the spacecraft separated from the rocket to loud applause in the control room among rows of blue-suited engineers.
State broadcaster CCTV showed a live feed from inside the spacecraft, with the three astronauts lifting their helmet visors and smiling and waving at the camera.
Another floated a pen just off his lap in zero-gravity as he browsed the flight manual.
Cameras outside the craft broadcast live images of the Earth below.
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