On Monday, Chinese astronauts successfully completed a manned docking with an experimental space module. This marks a major milestone in China’s plans to construct a space station. The crew of the Shenzhou 9, including China’s first woman in space, linked with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1 module. The pictures of the docking event were shown live on state television. The first Chinese woman in space is that of Liu Yang and she was a member of a crew of just three on the mission.
Three hours after the docking, mission commander Jing Haipeng entered into the module and was followed by Liu Wang and Liu Yang. This marks the first time China was able to transport astronauts from one orbiting craft to another. Docking and rendezvous exercises are hurdles that China must overcome in order to acquire the technological and logistical skills in order to operate a space lab that can accommodate astronauts for lengthy periods.
While on Tiangong 1, the astronauts will work and sleep during their mission, which will last 13 days. The Tiangong 1 will have a video telephone booth and an exercise bike in it. China continues to say that it is far from operating a successful space station since Tiangong 1 is just a trial module. Since 2003, this is just the fourth manned space mission for China, which is when Yang Liwei was the first person from China in orbit.
The success for the Chinese comes at a time when budget constraints have reduced space travel for the United States, which will not test a new rocket for taking people into space until 2017. Also, Russia has repeatedly said that manned missions are no longer a priority for the country. While these two countries are dormant, China is planning an unmanned moon landing and the deployment of a moon rover. Also, Chinese scientists have discussed sending a man to the moon but not before the year 2020.