Chinese show manual docking technique

First Posted: Jun 25, 2012 06:47 AM EDT

China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft with unmanned Tiangong 1 module with three Chinese astronauts on board manually docked their space capsule at orbiting module on 24 June.

The docking was shown live on the national television as this was the first time that china has ever successfully manually docked a spacecraft with another space module.  In order to manually dock the spacecraft the astronauts had to connect the two vessels which were travelling at a speed of 7.8 km per second. 

Shenzhou 9 launched June 16 from the Jiuquan center on the edge of the Gobi Desert in northern China carrying 9 crew that includes 33-year-old Liu Yang, an air force pilot and China's first female space traveller. Ms. Liu is joined by mission commander and veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng, 45, and crew mate Liu Wang, 43.

"The success of the manual rendezvous and docking mission represents another important phase achievement of the Shenzhou 9 and Tiangong 1 rendezvous and docking mission. The three astronauts will once again enter the orbiting module of Tiangong 1 to carry out scientific experiments," said Wu Ping, spokeswoman of the China Manned Space Program, said during a press briefing following the docking. "

After the successful launch of Shenzhou 9, China aims to build a space station by 2020 ans plans to be in league with U.S and Russia to send an independently maintained space station into orbit. China has said it plans to eventually put a Chinese astronaut on the moon.

According to Wu, The astronauts will spend three to four more days in module before returning to the capsule and manually separating from Tiangong 1. On returning to Shenzhou9, the spacecraft would head back to earth. She says, China has already spent 20 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) on its space program between 1992 and 2005. By the time the next Shenzhou mission is completed, Beijing will have spent an additional 19 billion yuan.

Different from NASA's Skylab of the 1970's and about one sixth the size of the 16 nation International Space Station, China's space station weighs about 60 tonnes.  

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