China completes first successful manned space docking
A Chinese spacecraft carrying three astronauts has docked with an orbiting module, marking the country’s first manned space docking.
The Shenzhou 9 capsule completed the docking with the Tiangong1 module after 2pm (0600 GMT), 213 miles above Earth.
Astronauts will work on Tiangong 1 for several days as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station.
The crew launched on Saturday from the Jiuquan centre on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China. It included Liu Yang, an air force pilot and China’s first female space traveller.
The space flight marked China’s first successful manned-docking, following two successful unmanned dockings with the Shenzhou 8 and the Tiangong 1 by remote control.
Today’s docking was also made by remote control from a ground base in China but there are plans to complete a manual docking later on in the mission.
The three astronauts will spend at least 10 days in space on China’s fourth manned mission where they will be conducting medical tests and experiments inside the Tiangong 1 module.
China could join the United States and Russia as the only countries to send independently maintained space stations into orbit.
The Tiangong 1 was launched last year and is due to be replaced by a permanent space station around 2020.
The first man to be sent into space by China was in 2003 and the country successfully completed a two-man mission in 2005.