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China 'one step closer' to constructing space station (+video)

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Shenzhou 9 lifted off on a Chinese Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's northern Gansu province Saturday (June 16). [Launch Photos: China's Shenzhou 9 Mission]

The mission is notable not just for the docking, but for the fact that this crew includes China's first female taikonaut. People's Liberation Army pilot Liu Yang is flying with repeat astronaut Jing Haipeng and rookie Liu Wang.

After Monday's successful docking, Jing entered the Tiangong 1 module first and waved to a TV camera to flight controllers on Earth. Liu Wang followed Jing inside the module while Liu Yang remained inside the Shenzhou 9 capsule performing final checks.

Later, Liu Yang entered Tiangong 1 and applause was heard from China's mission control room at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center as all three Shenzhou 9 astronauts boarded the module.

"I feel honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of Chinese females," Liu said before the launch, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Now that they have arrived at their new orbital home, the taikonauts will soon start settling in and exploring the Tiangong 1 module. In addition to necessary equipment, a collection of surprise trinkets have been planted around the lab for the astronauts to find, both for fun and to test the crew's puzzle-solving abilities in orbit.

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