Beijing, 6 Jun (ONA) --- Three Chinese astronauts have begun a six-month mission, to work on the country's new space station.
It is China's latest step towards making itself a leading space power for the decades ahead.
Last year, China put into orbit the first module of its Tiangong or "Heavenly Palace" space station. It plans to add more modules, such as Mengtian science lab, by the end of 2022, Xinhua news agency reported.
In 2023, it will launch a space telescope, called Xuntian. This will fly close to the space station, and dock with it for servicing and refuelling.
Tiangong will have its own power, propulsion, life support systems and living quarters.
It has big ambitions for Tiangong and hopes it will replace the International Space Station (ISS), which is due to be decommissioned in 2031.
China's ambitions do not end there. A few years from now it wants to take samples from asteroids near the Earth. By 2030, it aims to have put its first astronauts on the Moon, and to have sent probes to collect samples from Mars and Jupiter.
As China expands its role in space, several other countries are also aiming to get to the Moon.
Nasa plans to return to the Moon with astronauts from the US and other countries from 2025 onwards and has already rolled its new giant SLS rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre, BBC news reported.
Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirates are also working on their own lunar missions.
India has launched its second major Moon mission already and wants to have its own space station by 2030.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency, which is working with Nasa on Moon missions, is also planning a network of lunar satellites to make it easier for astronauts to communicate with Earth.