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Oct 18, 10:22 PM EDT

Chinese astronauts enter space station following docking

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BEIJING (AP) -- China says a pair of astronauts have entered the country's orbiting space station for a month-long stay.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft that blasted off Monday morning docked early Wednesday with the Tiangong 2 station.

It said veteran mission commander Jing Haipeng opened the hatch and entered the station that was launched last month, followed by astronaut Chen Dong, who is making his first journey into space.

The 30-day mission is China's longest and most ambitious to date, displaying the growing sophistication of the country's manned program that first launched a human into space 13 years ago.

The Tiangong 2 module is a precursor to a larger space station that will become fully functioning six years from now.

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