The spacecraft took off at around 1:22 a.m. GMT from northwest China on Thursday, further bolstering the country’s space program to rival the United States.
China has successfully launched the Shenzhou-12 – its first manned mission in five years – further accelerating its space program to compete with the United States.
Shenzhou-12, which stands for “Divine Vessel,” took off at around 1:22 a.m. GMT from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in northwest China on Thursday, according to video broadcast live on state television, CCTV.
The launch was carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket.
The spacecraft carried three male astronauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo.
In CCTV’s live video, two of the three astronauts waved “OK” as Shenzhou passed through Earth’s atmosphere and after the four amplifiers had critically separated.
After entering orbit, the spacecraft will perform a “rapid automated rendezvous and docking with the orbiting space station’s central module Tianhe,” according to CCTV.
The astronauts will be stationed in the central module and will remain in orbit for three months.
China began construction of the space station this year with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules – in late April.
Nie, a native of central Hubei province and a former air force pilot, is the head of the mission.
The Shenzhou-12 is Nie’s third spacewalk, following the Shenzhou-6 mission in 2005 and the Shenzhou-10 mission in 2013, according to the Xinhua news agency.
This is Liu’s second mission to space, his first being the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, which featured a historic spacewalk. This is Tang’s first trip to space.
China’s last crewed flight mission dates back to 2016, when two men – Chen Dong and Jing Haipeng – were sent via the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft to Tiangong-2, a prototype of the space station where they stayed over late for about a month.
Beijing’s goal is for the country to become a great space power by 2030, making space the new frontier of its rivalry with the United States.
In May, it became the second country to put a rover on Mars, two years after the first spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon.