Chinese astronauts settle in to space station

State broadcaster CCTV carried footage of the three astronauts, who lifted off on Thursday (June 17) morning, floating into the space station and then settling into their new quarters.

According to CCTV, the astronauts boarded the Tianhe space station module at around 6:48 p.m. Beijing time (1048 GMT).

The astronauts will be living in the module for the next three months, the longest stay in low-Earth orbit by any Chinese national.

China's space station, due to be finished by the end of 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.

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