China successfully launched three men into space Thursday, moving the country one step closer to establishing its new space station.
Shenzhou 12, or Divine Vessel, was launched on a Long March-2F carrier rocket from Gobi Desert's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Thursday morning.
The crew will be sent to the Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, core module of the planned space station.
According to state media CCTV, the spacecraft would dock with the core module around six and a half hours after launch. The crew will remain in orbit for three months to test the life support system and maintenance.
The Shenzhou-12 mission is China's first crewed mission and the third of 11 launches toward the construction of a space station. This is China's first crewed mission in nearly five years.
The Chinese space agency revealed the crew selection for the three-man mission on Wednesday. The mission is led by Nie Haisheng, the team's oldest member and a former People's Liberation Army fighter pilot.
The second-oldest crew member, Liu Boming, participated in China's 2008 space mission when he assisted Zhai Zhigang in becoming the first Chinese astronaut to perform a spacewalk.
Tang Hongbo, the crew's youngest member, is the only one of the three who has yet to fly to space, despite training for 11 years, according to state media.
Global Times noted that all three are members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the mission's duration coincides with the Party's 100-year anniversary, a significant national event planned for July 1.
Chinese astronauts are barred from the International Space Station due to U.S. political objections and legislative restrictions, which is why China has long desired to establish its own station.
Russia, a long-time contributor to the ISS, has also exited the program and is currently planning its own space station for launch in 2030.