Sat, Jun 30, 2012
Successfully Docked Two Spacecraft, Furthering Chinese Space Station Plans
Three Chinese astronauts, including the first Chinese woman to fly in space, have returned safely to Earth following a 13-day mission in which they successfully docked their Shenzhou 9 capsule to the Tiangong 1 space lab prototype already in orbit. The landing was broadcast live on Chinese state television.
During the mission, the crew conducted manual and automated docking procedures with the orbiting module. MSNBC reports that Chinese president Hu Jintao made a call to the crew while on orbit Tuesday. "Chinese astronauts have their own home in space now," mission commander Jing Haipeng told the president.
China, which is not a partner in the International Space Station, has said it plans to put its own space station in orbit by 2020, which is about the time the ISS is expected to reach the end of its useful life. The docking was considered a milestone for the Chinese in proving they could couple two spacecraft together while orbiting the Earth.
The Chenzhou 9 mission was only China's fourth manned spaceflight, and the first in several years. China last put a human in space in 2008, and before that in 2005.
(YouTube capture from Chinese State Television)
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