Chinese astronauts successfully docked with a prototype space station, making China only the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to perform such a maneuver.
A Chinese spacecraft carrying three astronauts docked with an orbiting module Monday, another first for the country as it strives to match American and Russian exploits in space.
The Shenzhou 9 capsule completed the maneuver with the Tiangong 1 module shortly after 2 p.m. (0600 GMT), 343 kilometers (213 miles) above Earth. The docking was shown live on national television.
Astronauts will live and work in the module for several days as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station. The crew includes 33-year-old Liu Yang, an air force pilot and China's first female space traveler.
The docking was a first for Chinese manned spaceflight. In November 2011, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 successfully docked twice with Tiangong 1 by remote control.
Monday's docking also was completed by remote control from a ground base in China. A manual docking, to be carried out by one of the crew members, is scheduled for later in the mission.
Liu is joined by mission commander and veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng, 45, and crew mate Liu Wang, 43. About three hours after the docking the three were shown on live television entering the Tiangong 1, grabbing handles as they floated along in their blue spacesuits.