Shenzhou 9’s docking mission success carrying China’s first space woman may make others rue wrong turns

by | Jul 2, 2012 | Seradata News | 0 comments

China made further progress in its manned space programme. Not only did it make its first manned docking as its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft linked up with the Tiangong mini-space station, on board the craft as part of its three “taikonaut” crew was China’s first female astronaut.

China  successfully launched its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft at 1037 on 16 June.  The Long March 2F/G flight carrying the spacecraft took place from the Jiuquan launch site.  The spacecraft was carrying three Chinese atronauts {“Taikonauts”) into orbit:  Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang – China’s first female astronaut.

In a show of the Chinese leadership’s confidence in its space programme, Chinese television, CCTV, was allowed to broadcast the launch live.  The impressive coverage included the major seperation events and deployment of the craft’s solar arrays.  After a few days in orbit, the Shenzhou spacecraft used an automatic system make a precision docking with the Tiangong 1 mini-space station/laboratory at 0608 GMT on 18 June.  The hatch was opened and the two male crew entered the space station at circa 0910 GMT.

With all three crew aboard, at around 0318 GMT on 24 June, the Chinese manned Shenzhou 9 spacecraft undocked from Tiangong 1 mini-space station and moved approximately 400 metres away from the craft.  The Shenzhou 9 craft, piloted by taikonaut Liu Wang, then approached Tiangong 1 to conduct a manual docking. The two craft were successfully manually redocked at 0448 GMT.

The test was to prove that the manual docking method was also a viable procedure should the automatic docking system ever fail.

The Chinese manned spacecraft Shenzhou 9 undocked from the Tiangong 1 mini-space station/laboratory. With its two man and one woman crew aboard, and hatches closed, the spacecraft made a manual undocking at 0122 GMT on 28 June. After its 13-day mission Shenzhou 9 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and landed in Siziwang Banner county in Inner Mongolia at 0202 GMT on 29 June. The crew were reported to be in good health after their mission.
Comment by David Todd:  While USA and Russia completed successful dockings 45 years ago, the Shenzhou 9 mission’s success will be a warning to other nations as to just how far the Chinese space programme has progressed. Like the Aesop fable of the “Tortoise and the Hare”, the slow but steady progress of China just might let it beat its speedier brethren in the conquest of space.  Actually China is catching up fast and this is partly due to the actions of its fellow spacefaring nations..  For example, USA now accepts that it took a wrong turn into a cul-de-sac with its Space Shuttle,  Meanwhile, Russia may be rueing helping China with its manned space technology now that China is achieving so much.   China’s ambition stretches beyond Earth with plans for manned lunar missions already tentatively announced.  The ability to successfully dock manned spacecraft was a major step in that endeavour.  The next will be to have a large heavy lift rocket and a lunar landing craft developed.

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