Chinese astronauts have entered the new laboratory module of the Chinese space station for the first time, a major step towards completing the orbital outpost by the end of the year.
The station is one of the gems of Beijing's ambitious space program, which has taken robotic rovers to Mars and the moon, and China has become only the third country to send humans into orbit, AFP reported.
Once completed, the Tiangong will be constantly manned by rotating teams of three astronauts who will conduct science experiments and help test new technologies.
The Wentian, the second of three main sections of Tiangong, docked at the main module of Tianhe Station on Monday after a successful launch from southern China a day earlier, state media reported.
A few hours after docking, the three astronauts, who had been living in the main module since June, opened the hatch and entered Wentian.
According to the Xinhua news agency, Wentian will focus on research in life sciences and biotechnology, including cell research and plant, fruit fly and zebrafish experiments.
The module will have living space for three additional astronauts, as well as up to six people during the crew transition.
The third and final module, another lab called Mengtian, is scheduled to launch in October.