Three astronauts lifted off from the Jiuquan base in the northwestern province of Gansu on Tuesday, marking a giant leap for China’s bid to put a permanently manned space station above Earth.
The Shenzhou-X blasted off with the three astronauts who plan to spend just under two weeks at the orbiting Tiangong space lab, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
Among the three onboard Shenzhou-X is Wang Yaping, the second woman and the youngest-ever astronaut China has sent into space.
The launch, the country’s fifth manned venture, is the longest-ever space mission by China and was seen as a significant milestone for the rising player in space technology.
Beijing aims to have its own space station at the turn of the decade and send a human to the moon by 2020, the year the International Space Station – a project jointly backed by the US, the EU, Russia, Japan and Canada – is scheduled to retire.
Like the ISS, Beijing’s proposed fully-fledged station will have long-duration residents and be supplied by robotic freighters, reports the BBC. China will then be the only nation with such a presence in space.