China astronauts enter space module for first time (Update)

The three prepare to enter the module
A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows three Chinese astronauts (from left) Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in the preparation for docking with the Tiangong-1 module on Monday. The three have entered an orbiting module for the first time, in a move broadcast live on China's state TV and a key step towards the nation's first space station.

Three Chinese astronauts on Monday entered an orbiting module for the first time, in a move broadcast live on China's state television network and a key step towards the nation's first space station.

The astronauts, two men and a woman, passed into the Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace") module a little under three hours after it docked with the Shenzhou-9 ("Divine Vessel") spacecraft.

The Shenzhou-9 took off Saturday carrying the first Chinese woman to go into space, before undergoing the third automatic docking China has ever performed, and the first for a manned mission.

The astronauts, who were shown waving to a camera as they floated inside the narrow Tiangong-1 capsule, will attempt to complete the highly technical docking procedure manually later in their 13-day mission.

The Tiangong-1 is an experimental module that is part of China's programme to build a space station by 2020.

It will only stay in orbit until 2013 and will later be replaced, but is designed to test the docking technique essential to a space station -- a delicate move the Russians and Americans successfully completed in the 1960s.

The spacecraft approaches the module for docking
A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft approching Tiangong-1 module for its automatic docking on Monday. Three Chinese astronauts on Monday entered an orbiting module for the first time, in a move broadcast live on China's state television network and a keystep towards the nation's first space station.

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.

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China in first automatic, manned space docking

(c) 2012 AFP

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Jun 18, 2012
Congratulations to the Taikonauts (they are not astronauts. Only the US and other english speaking nations, as well as Europeans us the term 'astronaut'. The russians use the word 'cosmonaut').

It really seems that China is advncing in her spaceprogram by leaps and bounds (and without a cold war motivation, to boot).

Jun 18, 2012
The Chinese government is heavily funding their space program. Some estimate by 2012 they will have a functional space station in orbit, something the size of the US's old "SkyLab". Also they have a plan to send and unmanned rover to the moon. They seem to be making an aggressive grab for the moon. Although right now that is just speculation.

Jun 18, 2012
Really nice, following up after SpaceX successes. 2012 is an exciting year for manned explorations, even though US brought some of the excitement on themselves. Not that they haven't had long lacunae before.

@ antialias: I believe "astronaut" is okay, their english video channel is using it.

@ TheDoctor: Typo, 2012 is "toyear"? 2020, I believe I have seen. It is unfortunate that US politics denied them cooperation on ISS.

Jun 18, 2012
Certainly China has an interest in its national brain trust being capable of such development. However the international community needs to be a little cautions that it is purely "altruistic" The cold war "competition" that drove the first space race might have been more military in nature. But make no mistake that world economic "competition" is not that far from the same motivations.

Jun 19, 2012
It is interesting to think about the long-term strategies. For one thing, China has been positioned as a Capitalist/Communist economy. They are quite open to Entrepreneurial pursuits but may also be able to execute on longer term visions that our Western economies turn over every election cycle.

A play for the moon/Mars/asteroids could bring home significant capital, or provide a true location for a colony for population growth. It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of the potential of the Chinese economy and what resources they can actually muster.

Jun 19, 2012
It's been said from long ago that the Chinese are the "Jews of the Orient". This is pretty accurate in the opinion of many. It's not bigoted or racist, since the Chinese do excel as merchants, buying and selling everything they can get their hands on, and they are relatively thrifty and understanding of the value of money and what tf can buy. They also understand the value of real estate and its potentials.
The Chinese are smart. They know how political climates change. Even the Chinese government understands that there may come a time when their Communist axioms will fail them. They fear their own people. Cracking down a little too much on their freedom may spark a revolution. So they concentrate on space programs and their military and leave the citizens alone, for the most part. Acquisition of the moon will give the Chinese leverage against other countries. They won't share it or give it up and it will become a part of their empire. Russians know this, and are preparing for it.

Jun 19, 2012
It's been said from long ago that the Chinese are the "Jews of the Orient"

I googled this and the there seems to be an equal amount of links that says this about the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans (and one even about the Thai).

There's thrifty, smart (or cunning if you prefer) people everywhere.

Jun 19, 2012
Asians in general seem to have the knack for making money. But China, apart from Taiwan and Hong Kong, was fettered by a Communist ideology which sadistically imposed so many rules on the populace where each person was not safe even in his own house. Children and neighbors were encouraged to rat on their friends and family. The people were so oppressed, fearing for their lives, and yet, they still understood how to haggle with their customers in true Capitalist form. Perhaps it was Capitalism that enabled them to survive the oppressed and unhappy state of life. Not just a technique for making money, but a way of life.....something to occupy their time. Take the goods to market, sell and then buy, greet their neighbors, do a little gossiping and hear the latest news.
A very simple life, but ancient as the hills, I'd say.

Jun 19, 2012
Between the 3..Japan, Korea and China.....China's the only country with which we're never had a conflict. No wars between the West and China. The other 2 are the ones we've had to build over again....and now it's the one who had no wars with us that is about to beat us in the race to the moon. I think somewhere between 8 - 15 years, China will have their astronauts on the moon.
To be honest, I think that they're way more focused on the goal than we are. WE have social programs to be concerned with and amnesty for illegals...things like that. ie... We have frittered our money away.
In the meantime, China has no big elections every 4 or 6 years. Everyone on the street knows who is Hu and who will take someone's place. The people can't be too concerned with politics....but they do have their heroes...and now they'll have a female astronaut to idolize. When they go to the moon in the future, the monkeys at NASA and the Pentagon will go ape, as ROBTHEGOB said the other day.

Jun 20, 2012
@PussyCat_Eyes... Um, Chinese and American forces clashed in major battles in Korea. North Korea had "lost" after UN had repelled their invasion of the south and advanced about 2/3rds of the way to the Korea-China border. Until China sent perhaps as many as a half million troops to retake the peninsula.

As for "Jews of the Orient", that is a general disservice to everybody everywhere. The Romans culturally thought of handling money as a dirty occupation, so they assigned most such tasks to their slaves, many of which were Jewish. The "class system" stigma became a cultural hate target. No such pattern exists in Chinese history.

As for the boogie man of "China Rising", they have *SERIOUS* issues of their own. No country should should begrudge them their attempts of reigning in thousands of years of successive civil power struggles and wars (like the one that split off Taiwan shortly after WWII and formed the Communist government they have now.) That said, though...

Jun 20, 2012
China culture is ancient and unfortunately rife with corruption. And their current government has little regard for the rights of individuals. They alone are the support that allows North Korea to exist, perhaps the most evil of societies to have existed in human history, as measured by the duration, intensity, and number, of suffering people.

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