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article imageChina celebrates first orbital spacecraft docking success

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 3, 2011 in Science
Beijing - China is celebrating its first successful docking of two spacecrafts in orbit. China's Shenzhou 8 spacecraft docked in Tiangong 1, a prototype space lab module. With this achievement, China is on its way to placing a spacestation in orbit by 2020.
CNN reports Shenzhou-8 left the earth on November 1, from a launch facility in the Gobi Desert in northwest China, one month after the first space laboratory module Tiangong 1, was launched.
Huffington Post reports Chinese president Hu Jintao sent a congratulatory message from France on his way to the Group of 20 economic summit. President Hu Jintao said:
"Breakthroughs in and acquisition of space docking technologies are vital to the three-phase development strategy of our manned space program."
Chinese Xinhua News Agency reports Premier Wen Jiabao and other top Chinese officials watched the docking from a space center in Beijing.
China's achievement is significant because United States and Russia are the only two other countries in the world that have successfully conducted space docking.
According to the spokesperson for the China Manned Space Engineering Office Wu Ping,
"The successful completion of the two spacecraft's rendezvous and docking marks that the Tiangong1/Shenzhou 8 rendezvous and docking mission has achieved a milestone success and set a sound foundation for the continued missions."
Wu Ping said, further:
"Our aim is to try our best to perform multiple tests within one launch so as to maximize our benefits through limited launches."
After successful docking, Shenzhou 8 ("Divine Vessel") and Tiangong 1 ("Heavenly Palace") will orbit for 12 days. After 12 days, Shenzhou 8 will detach from Tiangong 1, and to test mastery of the procedure, docking will be repeated. The two spacecrafts will then stay together for 2 days and Shenzhou 8 will finally detach and return to the earth on November 17.
China's Xinhua News Agency reports the director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Mazlan Othman, has congratulated China on successful completion of the exercise. Mazlan Othman, in his congratulatory message, said:
"On behalf of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, I would like to extend to the People's Republic of China our congratulations on the successful docking of the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft with the Tiangong space laboratory."
Othman, according to Xinhua News Agency, said China's successful docking has opened way for future manned missions. Othman said she was "encouraged by China's strong commitment to international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space."
China plans to launch two other missions (Shenzhou 9 and 10) by the end of 2012. Chinese officials say one of the two missions will be manned missions.The two missions will repeat the docking procedure and allow China further master its docking technology.
The Chinese are proud of their successful space docking especially because they were forced to set up their own space station program after their attempts to join the 16-member International Space Station was refused, mostly because of objections raised by the United States. Huffington Post reports that Chinese companies built all parts of the docking mechanism and instruments.
China plans to place a 66-ton spacestation in orbit by 2020.
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