China on Saturday launched its Shenzhou-9 spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman to travel to space. The Long March-2F rocket lifted off successfully from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 6:37 p.m local time and the Shenzhou-9 capsule separated from its booster shortly thereafter and entered orbit. Known as Taikonauts in China, Liu and her male traveling companions are embarking on a 13-day mission to rendezvous with the country’s Tiangong-1 space station module. This month’s undertaking marks an important step for the country’s space program. It is China’s first attempted manned docking mission with an orbiting spacecraft, a feat that has only been accomplished by the United States and Russia. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has now sent eight astronauts into space, including two-time space traveler Jing Haipeng, who is onboard Shenzhou-9 with Liu Yang and Liu Wang, the third member of the crew. The 9.4-ton Tiangong-1 module, launched and placed in orbit last September, is not a fully developed space station but rather a testing platform for rendezvous and docking missions like the one upon which the Shenzhou-9 is currently embarked. The CNSA aims to eventually launch a fully functioning space station as part of the agency’s Tiangong, or ‘Heavenly Palace’ program.