BEIJING, June 24 (Itar-Tass) — China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft carrying three astronauts has successfully carried out a manual docking with the Tiangong-1 lab module, Chinese Central Television reports on Sunday. Senior Colonel Liu Wang operated the manual docking.
The manual docking is seen as a key step in the building of a space station, which China expects to complete by 2020. A manual docking procedure is to be used in case of a failure with the automated system.
On June 18, the manned spacecraft docked with the Tiangong-1 module in an automated procedure. Over the past few days the astronauts made several experiments on board the space lab, and checked systems before the manual docking.
The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft was launched on June 16. There are three crew members on board the spacecraft, including nation’s first female astronaut Liu Yang. The main aim of the mission is the manual docking of the two space vehicles. The technology of automated docking was successfully trained back in November 2011, during the fight of the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft.
The mission of Shenzhou-9 is extremely important for the program to build a Chinese space station, which China plans to launch by 2020. The successful docking on Sunday means that China has become the third country in the world after the United States and Russia that possesses this technology, Chinese media outlets stressed.
The program of manned flights in China is implemented in three stages. The first one included the launch of two space vehicles with astronauts on board – Shenzhou-5 in 2003 and Shenzhou-6 in 2005.
The second stage implemented at the present moment focuses on the development of the technology of docking space vehicles in orbit. A space station is to be build and launched at the third state of the program.