China has successfully sent a new team of astronauts to its Tiangong space station, a significant achievement that not only marks the country’s first in-orbit crew handover but possibly also the beginning of continuous occupancy at the station.

The rendezvous in space marks a milestone for China’s rapidly advancing space program as Beijing aims to catch up with and eventually surpass the United States as the dominant power in space.

The three-man crew arrived at the space station Wednesday aboard a Shenzhou-15 spacecraft to take over from three colleagues who had arrived in June and are set to return next week.