China has done what only the Americans and the Russians have had the right to brag about till now. Not only that, they did it, undid it and did it again! I am talking about the manual docking of the Shenzhou spacecraft on their Tiangong-I Space Station module.
The First Docking
The Chinese had launched their their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to rendezvous with the Tiangong space station module on the 16th of June. Now, finally, on the 24th of June, the Chinese have attempted and succeeded in docking the modules. While Tiangong-1 is unmanned, Shenzhou wasn’t.
This is China’s first shot at an unmanned docking, marking a historic day when they achieve what only the Americans and the Russians have been able to achieve before them. But then, if it’s the Chinese, there’s always something more.
Docking Once More!
The Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts as they are called, undocked the two modules earlier today, and drove them apart by almost 400 meters. Then they attempted to manually maneuver the Shenzhou capsule, with Liu Wang, China’s first woman astronaut and a former fighter pilot, at the steering wheel. The procedure was a grand success! The refitted spacecraft-module configuration is now orbiting the Earth about 343 meters above the Earth’s surface.
China’s Manned Space Mission Program guys are a happy lot. Says Wu Ping, spokeswoman of the Manned Space Program:
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
And then adds
The three astronauts will once again enter the orbiting module of Tiangong 1 to carry out scientific experiments.
The crew returns on the 28th of June, touching down on Earth on the 29th.