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Day of pride from orbit to ocean

By Xin Dingding, Wang Qian  (China Daily)

08:14, June 25, 2012

Triumph of technology after manual docking and sea dive

From sea to space, from orbit to ocean, Chinese skill and technology proved up to the challenge.

Good luck! That was the message from the deep sea to space.

Congratulations! That was the reply from space to sea.

Astronauts and oceanauts exchanged those messages on Sunday amid triumphs of technology.

Astronauts celebrate the successful manual docking of the Shenzhou IX spacecraft with the Tiangong-1 module in video clips released on Sunday. The clips, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and Beijing Aerospace Control Center, also highlight the precision approach required for the procedure to be successful. Photos by Tian Lian / for China Daily

China's manned space program saw the Shenzhou IX spacecraft conduct a "perfect" manual docking with the Tiangong-1 space lab module.

The manual docking means "China now has a full command of space rendezvous and docking technology", Wu Ping, spokeswoman for the manned space program, said at a news conference on Sunday.

Being able to conduct automatic and manual dockings is a prerequisite for assembling a space station, which China has scheduled for 2020.

Though China has conducted three automatic dockings and one manual docking, Wu said more dockings are planned to test the technology.

A Shenzhou X spacecraft will be launched next year, she said. It will take expenditure on the manned program to 39 billion yuan ($6.13 billion) starting from 1992 when the program commenced.

Sunday's docking was "precise and perfect", she said.

The three astronauts, including China's first female astronaut Liu Yang, woke up shortly before 5 am on Sunday, two hours before their usual time, according to Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China.

They got up early because they had, among other things, to move equipment from Tiangong-1 to Shenzhou IX, examine module doors, and put on spacesuits, Chen said at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

At about 11 am, Shenzhou IX undocked from Tiangong-1 automatically and took up a position 400 meters from Tiangong-1.

Shortly before 1 pm, Liu Wang operated the parallel moving and altitude adjustment lever to control the approach of Shenzhou IX toward Tiangong-1. The two other astronauts assisted by monitoring instruments.

The spacecraft locked with each other at 12:55 pm.

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