China conducts first manual space docking

A Chinese spacecraft on Sunday successfully completed the country's first manual docking in orbit, a milestone in an ambitious programme to build a space station by the end of the decade.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft linked with the Tiangong-1 module just over a week into a manned space mission which includes China's first female astronaut, following an automatic docking on Monday.

"The success of the manual docking mission represents a major breakthrough. It was a precise and perfect docking," Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space programme, told a news conference in Beijing.

Veteran astronaut Liu Wang used a joystick-like device to carry out the manoeuvre, with state media describing him as "threading the needle".

The move was the main goal of the 13-day Shenzhou (Divine Vessel) mission, testing the docking technique needed to be able to construct a space station -- which China aims to do by 2020.

"The manual docking is a significant step for China's manned space programme," chief designer Zhou Jianping told the official Xinhua news agency.

"China has fully grasped... docking technologies that are essential to building a space station," he said.

Beijing sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

China will invest a total of around 19 billion yuan ($3.0 billion) in Shenzhou missions 7 to 10, Wu said, at a time when the United States scales back manned space exploration.

The manual docking came the same day a manned Chinese submersible set a national record for a deep-sea dive by dropping more than 7,000 metres into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, an achievement also hailed by state media.

The two spacecraft first came together in an automatic docking on June 18, and several hours later the three astronauts on board Shenzhou-9 entered the experimental Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace) module -- a first for China.

Earlier on Sunday, the two vessels separated in preparation for the manual docking, which state media originally said would take place around noon (0400 GMT), although it was not completed until roughly 45 minutes later.

Three hours after the docking, the three astronauts re-entered the Tiangong-1 to continue research on China's fourth manned space mission.

China has already completed several automatic dockings but the ability to dock manually is necessary in case of problems with the automatic procedure, such as the control centre being unable to carry it out remotely from Earth.

The manoeuvre -- successfully completed by the Americans and Russians in the 1960s -- requires great accuracy from astronauts as it involves two vessels orbiting Earth at thousands of kilometres (miles) per hour coming together very gently to avoid destroying each other.

The team -- headed by Jing Haipeng, a veteran astronaut on his third space mission -- rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times in simulations.

Liu Yang, the third crew member, is the first woman China has sent into space and has been hailed as a national heroine, with her mission followed excitedly in the Chinese media and on the country's popular microblogs.

All three astronauts were in "good condition" after over a week in space following the launch on June 16, Xinhua said, adding the Shenzhou-9 was scheduled to return to Earth on June 29.

In a commentary, the news agency said China's space programme had no military aims and had a long way to go before catching up with the United States.

"China has repeatedly said its space explorations are for scientific purposes and without military intent," it said.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • 15 wounded in attack on Philippine mosque
    15 wounded in attack on Philippine mosque

    Fifteen people including 10 police officers were wounded in an attack on a mosque on a remote Philippine island long plagued by Islamic militancy, officials said on Saturday. Successive blasts targeted a mosque on the island of Jolo -- an initial grenade attack followed by a bomb explosion that was intended to target police who rushed to the scene, local authorities said. "It seems the (first) explosion was set up to draw responders as the target," the provincial police chief Senior …

  • US missile cruiser docks at Subic
    US missile cruiser docks at Subic

    A US Navy missile cruiser has dropped anchor in Subic Bay as part of “routine port call,” amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea stirred by China’s island building activities and other threatening moves by its forces. The arrival of the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) at the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City yesterday was “just a routine port visit for ship replenishment and routine maintenance of shipboard system,” said Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office …

  • Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño
    Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño

    The agriculture and power sectors, as well as the general public should brace for a prolonged El Niño phenomenon that could further reduce water supply for electricity and irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, said the El Niño condition is expected to intensify from weak to moderate by August this year. Anthony Lucero, …

  • China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row
    China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row

    The US should help “cool down” the Philippines and realize that its meddling in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would only stir tensions, a Chinese newspaper reported. “Washington should know its meddling in the South China Sea has been destabilizing the region. The US has vowed not to take sides in the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. …

  • No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests
    No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests

    K to 12 is the fruit of years of comprehensive consultations involving different sectors in education,” Aquino said during the launching of the program at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the launch was attended by teachers, students and representatives from different stakeholders supportive of the K to 12 program. It was held two years after the signing of Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education …

  • MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t
    MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t

    The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) maintained its bid for completion of the tripartite review of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The MNLF’s desire to put consensual closure to the tripartite effort was relayed by its leaders to Sayed El-Masry, the special envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during the annual foreign ministers conference in Kuwait last Thursday. The MNLF peace agreement with the government in Sept. 2, …

  • Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe
    Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe

    President Aquino is expected to raise the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan next week. However, there is no word yet if the Philippines will specifically ask Tokyo to join calls for China to stop its massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. Aquino will leave for Tokyo on June 2 for a state visit until June 5. …

  • CHED releases wrong data on tuition hike
    CHED releases wrong data on tuition hike

    The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) appears to have released erroneous data on the allowed tuition and other fee increases in Metro Manila for the incoming academic year. On the list of the 51 approved higher education institutions (HEI) allowed to impose hikes, CHED pegged the average increase in tuition at P32.34 per unit and the average increase in other fees at P34.79. However, a Philippine STAR re-computation showed that the actual average approved tuition increases in Metro Manila …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options