China successfully launched three taikonauts to its own Tiangong space station during the night from Wednesday to Thursday.

According to plan, the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft took off from Jiuquan launch site in northern China at 3:22 a.m. GMT.

The first part of the space station was launched in April.

That is a tube almost 17 meters long and just over four meters wide.

There the three have to live, eat, sleep, exercise, work and do research.

The crew goes out twice for a spacewalk.

In the coming years, two other components must be linked to the first module.

The space mission is led by 56-year-old Nie Haisheng, who is embarking on his third space flight.

Together with Liu Boming (54) and Tang Hongbo (45), he will live in the space station for the next three months.

Never before have Chinese taikonauts been in space for so long in one go.

"This mission is longer and we not only have to install the core, our home in space, but we also have to do some important technical tests. This mission is more difficult and the challenges are greater," Nie said at the last press conference before departure. .

Liu speaks of an "extremely complex and arduous mission", also because of the spacewalks.

China ambitious in space

Ambitious China has little or no cooperation with other countries in space travel.

If the space station is ready around 2023, that may change.

"In the near future, we will see both Chinese and foreign astronauts together on the Chinese space station," said a director of the Chinese space program.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union offered allies space flights.

This allowed people from, for example, East Germany, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Syria to go into space.

Last month things were already being brought to the Tiangong space station:

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China launches cargo rocket to space station

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