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China in first manual space docking – Xinhua

/ 01:26 PM June 24, 2012

In this image made off the screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, China's Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft (left) conducts docking with the Tiangong-1 space lab module shortly after 2 p.m. Beijing time (0600 GMT) on Monday, June 18, 2012, 343 kilometers (213 miles) above Earth. AP Photo/Beijing Aerospace Control Center via Xinhua

Beijing – A Chinese spacecraft on Sunday successfully completed the country’s first manual docking in orbit, the official Xinhua news agency said, a milestone in an ambitious program to build a space station.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft manually linked with the Tiangong-1 module just over a week into a manned space mission which includes China’s first female astronaut, following an automatic docking on Monday.

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“The first manual docking has been completed normally,” mission control announced in a live

broadcast on state television.

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The manual “space kiss” was the main goal of the Shenzhou-9 mission, testing the docking technique essential to building a space station – which China aims to do by 2020.

The two spacecraft first came together in an automatic docking on June 18, and several hours later the three astronauts on board Shenzhou-9 entered the experimental Tiangong-1 module – a first for China.

Earlier on Sunday, the two vessels separated in preparation for the manual docking, which state media originally said would take place around noon (0400GMT), although it was not completed until roughly 45 minutes later.

Manual docking is hard to master as it involves two vessels – placed in the same orbit and revolving around Earth at thousands of kilometres (miles) per hour – coming together very gently to avoid destroying each other.

The Tiangong-1 will only stay in orbit until 2013 and will later be replaced.

Originally posted at 10:20 am | Sunday, June 24, 2012

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TAGS: China, science, Space
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