CHINA BRINGS 3 OF ITS ASTRONAUTS TO SPACE STATION
China launched a spaceship Thursday morning carrying three astronauts to the country's first space station under construction, state-run media reported, as President Xi Jinping has pledged to make the Asian nation a space power.
It will be the first manned mission during the space station's construction, with the three astronauts belonging to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) slated to remain in orbit for three months.
The latest mission is China's first manned space flight in around five years. Beijing plans to continue sending modules to complete the construction of the space station by the end of 2022 as it looks to develop new materials and promote the study of bioscience.
The Long March-2F rocket with the Shenzhou-12 spaceship blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's northwest province of Gansu.
Three astronauts, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, were on board.
In April, China launched the core module for the space station. Xi has been apparently aiming to boost national prestige by successfully transporting the astronauts to it ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party in July.
As the Communist-led government has been steadily moving forward with space development projects in recent years, expectations are growing that competition between China and the US will intensify in the field.