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Space docking puts China under int'l spotlight

(People's Daily Online)

19:25, June 18, 2012

Beijing, June 18 (People's Daily Online)--At about 2 p.m. June 18 Shenzhou-9 spacecraft successfully docked with the Tiangong-1 space lab. Three hours later, at about 5 p.m. three Chinese astronauts on Shenzhou-9 floated into the cabin of Tiangong-1 space lab, an orbiting module, becoming the first group of Chinese to enter an orbiter in space. These three Chinese astronauts will stay for six days on Tiangong-1.

A series of successful space operations conducted this afternoon has again put China under global spotlight:

BBC reported that it was China's fourth manned mission and another opportunity to see how far the Asian nation has developed its space technology.

CNN issued an article titled ” Chinese spacecraft docks with orbiting module on mission to lay space station groundwork”, which reported that this made China the third country to complete a manned space docking, following the United States and Russia. The mission, which began on Saturday, also saw the country's first female astronaut go into space.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that China was hoping to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to send independently maintained space stations into orbit. It was already one of just three nations to have launched manned spacecraft on their own.

Rendezvous and docking exercises between the two vessels is 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 of time, according to AP.

But 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. The United States will not test a new rocket to take people into space until 2017, and Russia has said manned missions are no longer a priority, AP reported.

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