The crew of the Shenzhou XV mission, China's 10th manned spaceflight, set out to the service tower after a seeing-off ceremony on Tuesday evening in front of their residential building at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Gobi Desert.
Major General Fei Junlong, the mission commander, Senior Colonel Deng Qingming and Senior Colonel Zhang Lu left their residence at 8:17 pm and then informed General Xu Xueqiang, commander-in-chief of the country's manned space program, they are ready for the coming mission and asked for permission to embark on the flight.
After Xu gave his permission, Fei and his teammates saluted the general and all participants at the brief event before boarding their transport to the service tower now holding their carrier rocket.
Many workers and residents at the Jiuquan center stood along the road and cheered the astronauts as their car passed.
Mission commander Fei, 57, is about to make his return to space after a 17-year wait. He was part of the Shenzhou VI flight in October 2005.
This will be the first space journey for both Deng, 56, and Zhang, 46. Deng is the last serving member of China's first group of astronauts to take part in a spaceflight, while Zhang is the only member of the second generation of astronauts without spaceflight experience.
The crew is scheduled to launch at 11:08 pm to fly with the Shenzhou XV spacecraft to the Tiangong space station. They will meet their peers in the Shenzhou XIV mission who have been flying for nearly six months and will also stay inside the massive orbital outpost for six months.
Their arrival will mark the first time six Chinese people are traveling in space at the same time. There have been at most three Chinese astronauts in space at a time.
During the Shenzhou XV flight, Fei's crew will carry out three to four spacewalks to mount equipment outside the station, according to mission officials.