China’s Shenzhou 11 docks at Tiangong 2 space station

Two Chinese astronauts have arrived at the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, in a mission aimed at developing China’s capabilities as a space power.

Chinese astronauts before the mission - photo credit EPA

Chinese astronauts before the mission – photo credit EPA

The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft blasted off from northern China on Monday, and docked with Tiangong 2 at 03:24 Beijing time (19:24 GMT Tuesday). Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will be spending the next 30 days in space conducting experiments. It marks the longest space mission by Chinese astronauts.

The docking took place 393km (244 miles) above Earth and the remotely controlled procedure lasted about two hours, according to state media.

State television on Wednesday morning carried live video of the docking and arrival of the astronauts, or “taikonauts”, which saw them floating through a narrow 1m-long, 80cm-wide passageway into the lab.

The pair “extended greetings to all the people of the nation,” while onboard the laboratory, according to the Xinhua news agency.