TV grab taken on June 18, 2012 shows Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang at the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module. (Image: Xinhua)
Jing Haipeng, followed by Liu Wang and Liu Yang, went into the space lab module Tiangong-1 from spacecraft Shenzhou-9 about three hours after a successful automatic docking procedure which was completed at 2:07 p.m.
Live television broadcast showed the three astronauts in blue uniform waved to the camera inside the Tiangong-1 cabin against the backdrop of a five-starred national flag and a big red Chinese knot.
They are the first tenants in the 15-cubic-meter cabin of Tiangong-1, known as ‘Heavenly Palace’.
The 8.5-tonne space lab module has been traveling around Earth for 262 days since it was launched in September 2011.
A manual docking is considered as a major step forward in China's manned space programme to build a space station around 2020, in time for the likely retirement of the International Space Station.
Besides manual docking, the astronauts will conduct medical experiments and other space tests during the current mission.
China succeeded in an automated space docking between unmanned spaceship Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 late last year.
The three astronauts, including the country's first female astronaut Liu Yang, were sent into space by an upgraded Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gobi desert at 6:37 p.m. Saturday.