In this photo provided by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a 3D animation shows China’s Shenzhou 8 spacecraft docking with Tiangong-1 space lab module on a screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011. China moved one step closer to setting up its own space station early Thursday, with the two spacecraft docking successfully above the earth. Shenzhou 8 launched Tuesday from a base in far western China. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Yongzhuo)
(AP)—Two unmanned Chinese spacecraft docked successfully and were
orbiting the Earth together Thursday in a step that moves China closer
to manning its own space station in about a decade.
Shenzhou 8 craft that was launched Tuesday docked with the already
orbiting Tiangong 1 module, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China’s manned
space program. The assembly has orbited Earth six times, with onboard
instruments working normally, she said.
U.S. and Russia are the only other countries to master the space
docking technique. It was “a milestone success and sets a sound
foundation for continued missions,” Wu said.
joint assembly will fly for another 12 days doing tests, then a second
docking will be followed by two days’ flight. Shenzhou 8 is scheduled to
return to Earth on Nov. 17, she said.
aim is to try our best to perform multiple tests within one launch so
as to maximize our benefits through limited launches,” Wu said.
launched its own space station program after being turned away in its
repeated attempts to join the 16-nation International Space Station.
That was largely on objections from the United States, which is wary of
the Chinese space program’s military links.
Experts see no explicit military function for the Chinese space station.
terms of technology, the launch of the Tiangong-1 places China about
where the U.S. was in the 1960s during the Gemini program. But experts
say China progresses further than the U.S. did with each launch it
more docking missions with the Tiangong 1 model are planned next year,
one of them manned. China will set up a space lab by 2016, Wu said, and
its actual station will be launched in three sections between 2020 and
the parts of the docking mechanism and the more than 600 onboard
instruments were designed and made by Chinese state-owned and private
companies, she said.
The Long March 2F rocket carrying Shenzhou 8 spacecraft lifts off at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, in northwestern China’s Gansu province, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. China’s unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou 8 blasted off in the latest step in what will be a decade-long effort by the country to place a manned permanent space station in orbit. (AP Photo)
Hu Jintao praised the docking in a message from France en route to the
Group of 20 economic summit. Premier Wen Jiabao and other top officials
watched the docking from an aerospace center in Beijing, the official
Xinhua News Agency reported.
about 60 tons when completed, the Chinese station will be considerably
smaller than the International Space Station, which is expected to
continue operating through 2028.
launched its first manned flight in 2003, joining Russia and the United
States as the only countries to launch humans into orbit. The Chinese
space program also calls for one day landing on the moon, possibly with
by a reporter what real benefits the Chinese government’s investment in
its space program brought to ordinary citizens, Wu said “It’s fair to
say that aerospace technology is closely linked to the everyday life of
said the benefits of past space travel ranged from the use of
satellites for navigating in cars and television broadcasting to the
designs of diapers for babies and the freeze-drying of ingredients used
in instant noodles.
SOURCE: The Associated Press