China conducts first manual space docking
The docking was shown live on national television. It follows a docking last week that was carried out by remote control from a ground base in China. The Chinese astronauts have been living and working in the module for the past week as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station. They returned to the Shenzhou 9 capsule early Sunday and disconnected in preparation for the manual re-connection.
Their mission, which is expected to last at least 10 days, is China’s fourth manned mission. Shenzhou 9 launched June 16 from the Jiuquan center on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China. China is hoping to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to send independently maintained space stations into orbit. It is already one of just three nations to have launched manned spacecraft on their own. Another manned mission to the module is planned later this year. Possible future missions could include sending a man to the moon. The Tiangong 1, which was launched last year, is due to be replaced by a permanent space station around 2020. —INP`