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Shenzhou 9's three-person crew, including China's first female astronaut  (Source: planetary.org)
The Shenzhou 9 made its way into space on a Chinese Long March 2F rocket on Saturday, June 16

China successfully completed its first manned docking in space today using the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft and the Tiangong 1 space module.

"We are one step closer to our destination of constructing a future space station," said an official with China's space program. "This is the first successful crew transportation mission for China."

The Shenzhou 9 made its way into space on a Chinese Long March 2F rocket on Saturday, June 16. It launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gansu province in northern China.

The Shenzhou 9 successfully docked at the Tiangong 1 space module in automatic mode today, marking the first manned docking for China. China is the third country (after the United States and Russia) to make such a quest.

But the docking isn't the only historic marker for China. The three-person crew aboard the Shenzhou 9 consisted of China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang. The other two astronauts were Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang.

"I feel honored to fly into space on behalf of hundreds of millions of Chinese females," said Liu.

The Shenzhou 9 will remain docked at the Tiangong 1 until later this week, and then re-dock for another test in manual mode. The spacecraft is expected to be in orbit for 13 days.

The Tiangong 1 was launched into space in September 2011, and the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft linked up to it in November. Today's manned docking represented a whole new first for the country.

China described its five-year space plans in a report released by the government last December. According to the blueprint, the country wants to construct space stations, ship freighters, space laboratories and a manned spaceship through the end of 2016.
China also said it plans to use probes to explore the moon's surface as well as asteroids, planets and the sun, and it wants to improve launch vehicles, meteorological
satellites, communications and broadcasting to form a global satellite navigation system.

Source: Space.com





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