China launches first crew to space station

China has launched the first three astronauts to its new space station in its first crewed mission in five years.

The astronauts are travelling in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship launched by a Long March-2F Y12 rocket that blasted off shortly after the target time of 9.22am (1122 AEST) on Thursday from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwestern China.

The launch time saw bright blue skies with near perfect visibility at the launch centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

The two veteran astronauts and a newcomer making his first space flight are heading to the Tianhe station for a three-month stay in its main living compartment.

They will carry out experiments, test equipment, conduct maintenance and prepare the station for receiving two additional modules next year.

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