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    On Thursday, three Chinese astronauts arrived on China’s new space station to start their 3-month mission. This marks another milestone in the country’s rapidly growing space program. The Shenzhou-12 craft took off from the Jiuquan launch centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert. It took the craft roughly six hours to reach and connect with the space station module.

    Three hours later the crew opened the hatches and floated into the Tianhe-1 core living module. Pictures showed commander Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo,45, busy at work unpacking equipment. State broadcaster for CCTV said, “This represents the first time Chinese have entered their own space station,”.

    The crew’s mission is to carry out experiments, test equipment, conduct maintenance, and prepare the station for receiving two laboratory modules next year. This brings the number of astronauts China has sent into space up to 14 since 2003. They are also the third country to send astronauts into space on their own, as Russia and the U.S. have already done so.

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