China’s first manual space docking successful
Three Chinese astronauts Sunday successfully completed a manual docking between the Shenzhou IX spacecraft and the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module, the first such attempt in China’s history of space exploration.
It means China has completely grasped space rendezvous and docking technologies and the country is fully capable of transporting humans and cargo to an orbiter in space, which is essential for building a space station in 2020.
Astronaut Liu Wang, assisted by his teammates Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang, controlled the Shenzhou IX spacecraft to dock with the Tiangong-1 space lab module at 12:48 p.m., which were reconnected about seven minutes later.
About one and a half hours before the docking, Shenzhou IX parted from Tiangong-1 to a berth point 400 meters away from the module.
To leave room for adjustments, engineers set up four berth points for the spaceship on the same orbit 5 km, 400 meters, 140 meters and 30 meters away from the orbiting lab.
As highly sophisticated space manoeuvre, manual docking requires the astronaut to connect together two orbiters traveling at 7.8 kilometers a second in space without a hitch.
Shortly after the docking, the smiling and waving astronauts greeted the ground crew via camera.