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Pictures | Thu Jun 17, 2021 | 9:30am EDT

Chinese astronauts board space station module in historic mission

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts, takes off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China's first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, June 17, 2021. Three Chinese astronauts flew to an unfinished space station in China's first crewed mission since 2016, expanding the country's already growing near-Earth presence and challenging U.S. leadership in orbital space.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts, takes off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China's first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, June 17, 2021....more

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts, takes off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China's first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, June 17, 2021. Three Chinese astronauts flew to an unfinished space station in China's first crewed mission since 2016, expanding the country's already growing near-Earth presence and challenging U.S. leadership in orbital space. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo are seen inside the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, June 17, 2021. The astronauts rode to Tianhe - the module that will be the living quarters of China's completed space station - on Shenzhou-12, or "Divine Vessel." The crew boarded the module, where they will live for three months, the longest stay in low-Earth orbit by any Chinese national.

CCTV via Reuters TV

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo are seen inside the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, June 17, 2021. The astronauts rode to Tianhe - the module that will be the living quarters of China's completed space station - on Shenzhou-12,...more

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo are seen inside the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, June 17, 2021. The astronauts rode to Tianhe - the module that will be the living quarters of China's completed space station - on Shenzhou-12, or "Divine Vessel." The crew boarded the module, where they will live for three months, the longest stay in low-Earth orbit by any Chinese national. CCTV via Reuters TV
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The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. China's space station, due to be finished by end-2022, will be the only alternative to the two-decade-old, U.S.-led International Space Station (ISS), which may be retired in 2024. If the ISS - backed mainly by the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada - is decommissioned, China would be the operator of the only active space station. That would potentially give it greater power in shaping future norms and regulations for near-Earth space, which is already teeming with Chinese satellites.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. China's space station, due to be finished by end-2022, will be the only alternative to the two-decade-old, U.S.-led International Space Station (ISS), which may be retired in 2024. If the ISS -...more

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. China's space station, due to be finished by end-2022, will be the only alternative to the two-decade-old, U.S.-led International Space Station (ISS), which may be retired in 2024. If the ISS - backed mainly by the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada - is decommissioned, China would be the operator of the only active space station. That would potentially give it greater power in shaping future norms and regulations for near-Earth space, which is already teeming with Chinese satellites. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The Shenzhou-12 astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, salute before the launch, June 17, 2021. The three will test out technologies on Tianhe including its life-support system. They will also be monitored for how they fare in space physically and psychologically. An upcoming mission to the space station will last six months.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Shenzhou-12 astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, salute before the launch, June 17, 2021. The three will test out technologies on Tianhe including its life-support system. They will also be monitored for how they fare...more

The Shenzhou-12 astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, salute before the launch, June 17, 2021. The three will test out technologies on Tianhe including its life-support system. They will also be monitored for how they fare in space physically and psychologically. An upcoming mission to the space station will last six months. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions - four of which will be crewed - needed to complete China's first full-fledged space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, a cylinder-like module slightly bigger than a city bus.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions - four of which will be crewed - needed to complete China's first full-fledged space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, a...more

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions - four of which will be crewed - needed to complete China's first full-fledged space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, a cylinder-like module slightly bigger than a city bus. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. Barred by U.S. law from working with NASA and by extension on the ISS, China has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own space station, in addition to planning missions to the moon, Mars and other planets.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. Barred by U.S. law from working with NASA and by extension on the ISS, China has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own space station, in addition to planning missions to...more

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. Barred by U.S. law from working with NASA and by extension on the ISS, China has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own space station, in addition to planning missions to the moon, Mars and other planets. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket takes off, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The three astronauts prepare for launch, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The three astronauts prepare for launch, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The three astronauts prepare for launch, June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo meet members of the media behind a glass wall before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo meet members of the media behind a glass wall before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo meet members of the media behind a glass wall before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo meet members of the media behind a glass wall, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo meet members of the media behind a glass wall, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo meet members of the media behind a glass wall, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The launch pad for the Long March-2F Y12 rocket is seen at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The launch pad for the Long March-2F Y12 rocket is seen at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The launch pad for the Long March-2F Y12 rocket is seen at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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The Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is transferred to the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, June 9, 2021. China Daily via REUTERS

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is transferred to the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, June 9, 2021. China Daily via REUTERS

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is transferred to the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, June 9, 2021. China Daily via REUTERS
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Staff members of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center attend a news conference before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Staff members of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center attend a news conference before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Staff members of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center attend a news conference before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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A badge of the Shenzhou-12 Manned Space Flight Mission is seen on the uniform of a staff member of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center during a news conference before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A badge of the Shenzhou-12 Manned Space Flight Mission is seen on the uniform of a staff member of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center during a news conference before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A badge of the Shenzhou-12 Manned Space Flight Mission is seen on the uniform of a staff member of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center during a news conference before the Shenzhou-12 mission, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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