China has made space history today, as its Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which blasted off on Saturday from the Gobi Desert, has docked with the Tiangong-1 orbiting space laboratory during an automatic manoeuvre. The craft was also carrying China’s first female astronaut to head into space
The spacecraft blasted off last Saturday, carrying three astronauts, among them Liu Yang a 33-year-old air-force pilot who has become China’s first female astronaut in space.
She is accompanied by astronauts Jing Haipeng, 45, and Liu Wang,43.
Today the spacecraft completed an automatic docking, controlled by computers, with the Tiangong-1 space lab. The astronauts aboard Shenzhou-9 have also made history as they are first group of Chinese astronomers to enter an orbiter in space.
Since the docking, which happened today 213 miles above Earth, astronauts Yang, Haipeng, Wang have floated into Tiangong-1.
The lab has been orbiting planet Earth since it was launched on 29 September last year. It also has the nickname ‘Heavenly Palace’ and is China’s first space lab.
Future space station complex?
Tiangong-1 was launched so that China could test out the rendezvouzs of spacecrafts and their docking capabilities in order to build a future space station complex.
According to China’s National Space Administration, Tiangong-1 weighs in at 8.5-metric-tonnes. Last November the unmanned Shenzhou-8 made a successful docking at the lab.
The three astronauts from the current Shenzhou-9 mission will now carry out scientific experiments and technical tests while they are aboard Tiangong-1 for the next 10 days.
Video credit: YouTube