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Interview: China's manned space mission "hits target": Russian expert

(Xinhua)

09:54, June 18, 2012

MOSCOW, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The successful launching of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft on Saturday proves again China's grasp of essential space techniques and shows Chinese vision on how to develop the space program with steady steps and rational goals, a Russian space expert said.

China's National Space Administration (CNSA) has adopted the policy of making small but reliable achievements, which could be summarized as "slower and better," Igor Lisov, a researcher in the Cosmonautics News magazine, told Xinhua in an interview.

Each mission of China's spacecraft is aimed at reaching exactly one particular achievement. "This time, the fourth one, the objective was to undertake the manned docking, the first in the Chinese space program's history," Lisov said.

China launched the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with Liu Yang -- the country's first female astronaut -- and her two male crewmates Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang aboard from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China at 6:37 p.m. (1037 GMT) Saturday.

The main task of this mission will be the manual docking procedure conducted between the Shenzhou-9 and the orbiting space lab module Tiangong-1.

Since the unmanned spaceship Shenzhou-8 successfully docked with Tiangong-1 last November, the Shenzhou-9 mission was not so "technically challenging" or something of a great breakthrough, but rather another precise "hit" to the target, which fully matched the principle of "one mission, one task," Lisov said.

"The difference between fully automated docking and manual one is not so vast, but the Chinese wanted to be 100 percent sure this objective would be executed seamlessly. And they did it exactly as it was planned," said the expert.

The mission will also mark the country's first attempt to ship supplies and personnel from the earth to the orbiting module.

The Chinese space authorities believe it is better to launch fewer spaceships but be certain each mission is secure from any unexpected errors, Lisov said.

According to the expert, the authorities acted "very wisely" by not repeating the same step several times to polish the technology as their Russian or American counterparts used to do.

So far, all the tasks have been fulfilled completely. The philosophy behind the entire project is that if a mission is completed successfully, there is no need to repeat it.

The successful manual docking is another step to the next stage -- to set a long-term orbital station after the test flights to the smaller Tiangong space labs have been completed.

During the Shenzhou-9 mission, three Chinese astronauts will spend over a week aboard the space lab, which marks another achievement for the mission.

It will be the first time the Chinese astronauts move between two spaceships as well as the first time the mission control operates the two space objects simultaneously.

"Now the Chinese are paving their way to create the big orbital forepost," Lisov said.

Also, it is the first time a Chinese woman steps into the outer space, which demonstrates China's "gender equality" principle in space industry, Lisov said.

In this regard, China will make a big step forward by sending Liu, the first Chinese female astronaut into space because she was not a vase or "living workload" but a really helpful crew member, he concluded.


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