Chinese astronauts reach new space station for 3-month mission

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Three astronauts entered China's new space station for the first time after riding into space on the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft launched from the edge of the Gobi Desert on Thursday, according to AP.

Why it matters: Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are set to occupy the station for a three-month mission, marking the country's longest crewed space mission ever and the first in almost five years.

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Details: The Shenzhou-12 was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, atop a Long March 2F rocket.

The big picture: This is the third of 11 missions needed to complete the construction of the permanent space station, the first component of which was launched into orbit in April.

  • China's government is excluded from the International Space Station program — the only other space station in orbit.

What's next: The astronauts' main goal is to bring into service the first component of the station, the Tianhe module, Cmdr. Nie said, per the BBC.

  • "We need to set up our new home in space and test a series of new technologies," Nie said ahead of the Shenzhou-12 launch.

  • "I believe with the three of us working closely together, doing thorough and accurate operations, we can overcome our challenges. We have the confidence to complete the mission."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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