China’s latest crew of three astronauts is now aboard the country’s Tiangong space station.
The trio, the crew of the Shenzhou 16 mission, launched on a Long March 2F rocket from Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert at 9:31 p.m. EDT on May 29 (0131 GMT and 9:31 p.m. local time on May 30).
The Shenzhou 16 spacecraft completed a fast automated rendezvous and docking with Tiangong at 4:29 a.m. on May 30 (0829 GMT or 4:29 p.m. Beijing time), docking with the radial port of the station’s Tianhe core module. Footage released by the China Manned Space Agency and Chinese broadcaster CCTV shows the spacecraft approaching and docking while traveling at around 17,800 mph (28,650 kph).
Footage from inside Tiangong shows the Shenzhou 15 crew — Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu — greeting the incoming Shenzhou 16 astronauts as they enter the hatch to the outpost.
Shenzhou 16 commander Jing Haipeng, spaceflight engineer Zhu Yangzhu and payload specialist Gui Haichao — the first members of a third astronaut selection group to fly to space — are set to take over command of Tiangong from the Shenzhou 15 crew, who will return to Earth on June 3.
Jing, Zhu and Gui will remain aboard the orbital outpost until November, conducting science experiments, extravehicular activities and engaging in science popularization and outreach.