China's space station dream one step closer

China has made history by manually docking a spacecraft in orbit, joining the US and Russia in accomplishing the feat. 

The Shenzhou 9 spacecraft completed its first ever manual docking of a manned spacecraft and an orbiting lab module on Saturday.
This means China is one step closer to its dream of building a space station.
Broadcast live on state television, the space craft undocked for two minutes, traveling 400 metres away from the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1 module.
Its three-person crew, including the country's first woman in Space Liu Yang, then re-connected the two space craft under the manual control of the astronauts.
Rendezvous and docking exercises between the two vessels are an important hurdle in China's efforts to acquire the technological and logistical skills to run a full space lab that can house astronauts for long periods.
The Shenzhou 9 has already conducted an automated docking with Tiangong 1, on June 18, a day after it blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.
Compared with automated docking, manual docking is more challenging in terms of orbit control, said Xie Jianfeng, a space scientist with the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
The docking mission is the latest show of China's growing prowess in space and comes while budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back U.S. manned space launches.



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