Manned Space Mission: China Sends Three Astronauts Including First Civilian To Tiangong Station

China sent three astronauts to its Tiangong Space Station, putting a civilian into orbit for the first time as it pursues plans to send a crewed mission to the Moon by the end of the decade.

The world's second-largest economy has invested billions of dollars in its space programme in a push to catch up with the United States and Russia.

The Shenzhou-16 crew took off atop a long march 2f rocket from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in Northwest China at 9:31 am local time.

Director of the Jiuquan satellite launch center Zou Lipeng said the launch was a complete success and the astronauts are in good condition.

Civilian astronaut Gui Haichao is a professor at Beijing university of aeronautics and astronautics.

China was the third country to put humans in orbit, and Tiangong is the crown jewel of its space programme, which has also landed robotic rovers on mars and the moon.

The Shenzhou craft will dock at the Space Station's Tianhe core module.

The crew will then meet their three colleagues from the Shenzhou-15 flight, who have been at the station for six months and will return to earth in the coming days.