First Astronauts of the Chinese Space Staion
Three Chinese astronauts docked with the Tiangong-1 and entered the space station from the Shenzhou-9. Though its the third docking for China, it is the first manned one. Also, China’s first women is up in space on this 13-day mission.
Tiangong-1 will stay in the orbit until 2013 to perform the crucial docking procedures that were performed earlier by Russia and United States in 1960s. This tests in Tiangong-1 will lay the stepping stones for their dream of building a space station by 2020.
As the AFP article develops,
The manoeuvre is hard to master because the two vessels, placed in the same orbit and revolving around the Earth at thousands of kilometres per hour, must come together very gently to avoid destroying each other.
Reports have said the Shenzhou-9 will remain attached to the space capsule for six days before separating in preparation for the manual docking.
President Hu Jintao has said the operation would mark a “major breakthrough in the country’s manned space programme”, which is gearing up just as the United States scales back its manned space exploration activities.
China 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.
The ability to dock manually is necessary in case of any problems with the automatic procedure, such as the control centre being unable to carry it out remotely from Earth.
The team — headed by Jing Haipeng, a veteran astronaut on his third space mission — have rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times in simulations.
Liu Wang, who has been in the space programme for 14 years, will be in charge of manual docking manoeuvres, while Liu Yang, China’s first woman to travel to space, will conduct aerospace medical experiments and other space tests.
Their mission has been heavily trailed in China’s state-run media, with much of the attention focused on Liu Yang — at 33, the youngest of the three.
She has been hailed as a national heroine and her mission is being excitedly followed in the Chinese media and on the country’s popular microblogs.
Banners have reportedly been put up at her former high school in central China’s Henan province celebrating her selection as the country’s first female “taikonaut”, as the country dubs its space travellers.
This post was first published on June 18, 2012.