China Launches Space Docking Mission
November 1, 2011 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.
BEIJING, Oct. 31 (UPI) — China says a spacecraft launched from the Gobi Desert will attempt the country’s first space docking with a capsule already orbiting the Earth.
A rocket carrying the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft blasted off and the spacecraft will rendezvous with the Tiangong 1 space capsule that was launched in late September and has already been maneuvered into position, the BBC reported.
The docking maneuver, set for two days after the launch, is a step toward China’s plans to build an orbiting space station by 2020.
Shenzhou 8 was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province at 4:58 EDT.
There will be two further attempts to dock with the capsule next year, at least one of which will be manned, and astronauts — taikonauts in China — are being trained for the mission, Chinese space agency officials said.
“The mastering of rendezvous and docking technologies will lay a key technical foundation for China’s building of a space station and deep-space exploration,” Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program, told China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.