China on Thursday launched the core module for its first permanent space station as the country pursues its ambitious space programme. The Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony” module, blasted into space on the Long March-5B Y2 rocket from Hainan, an island in southern China, according to state media. The module will become the management and control hub of China’s Tiangong space station, which could be operational by the end of next year, state media said. China is planning for astronauts to live in the core module of the station for up to six months at a time; at least 12 astronauts are training now for such missions. China has invested heavily in its space programme, a source of national pride and touted as a symbol of the country’s growing technological expertise and strength. Beijing aims to become a major space power by 2030.