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Forum:ESA - JAXA - China - International
Topic:China's Shenzhou 9 mission to Tiangong-1
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Robert PearlmanXinhua news agency photo release
Shenzhou 9 escape tower debris found in N. China

Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
China's Shenzhou 9 docks with Tiangong-1 for nation's 1st crewed space coupling

China achieved its first manned space docking on Monday (June 18), as its Shenzhou 9 crewed spacecraft and Tiangong-1 prototype space station met up in Earth orbit.

Shenzhou 9, with astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first woman in space Liu Yang on board, began approaching the Tiangong-1 lab module at about midnight EDT (0400 GMT) Monday. The crewed spacecraft, flying under autonomous control, made contact with the module at 2:07 a.m. EDT (0607 GMT).

About three hours later, the Shenzhou 9 crew entered the Tiangong-1, or the "Heavenly Palace," for the first time. Commander Jing, followed by Liu Wang, floated inside the module, which has been circling the Earth without a crew since its launch in September 2011.

Liu Yang later joined her crewmates on board Tiangong-1 after initially remaining behind in the Shenzhou to be ready if an emergency arose.

Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
China achieves first manual space docking

China achieved its first-ever manually controlled space docking on Sunday (June 24), when its Shenzhou 9 piloted spacecraft and unmanned Tiangong-1 lab module connected together in Earth orbit. The docking moved the country a step forward in its plans to establish a space station within the decade.

The docking demonstration was the second orbital link-up for China's Shenzhou 9, which first arrived at Tiangong-1 under automated control on June 18. The capsule's crew, Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first woman in space Liu Yang, lived and worked aboard the "Heavenly Palace" for six days before leaving to perform the manual docking at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT) on Saturday (June 23).

Undocking under autonomous control, Shenzhou 9 backed away from the Tiangong-1 module to a distance of about 1,300 feet (400 meters). Liu Wang took over control of the reapproaching craft when the two were about 460 feet (140 meters) apart.

Assisted by his crewmates, Liu reconnected Shenzhou 9 with Tiangong-1 at 12:48 a.m. EDT (0448 GMT) Sunday.

Robert Pearlman
Shenzhou 9 separates from Tiangong-1, returning to Earth Thursday night

China's fourth manned spaceflight, and the first to accomplish crewed and manual dockings, will return to Earth on Thursday (June 28) at about 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT June 29).

Liu Wang, assisted by his crewmates Jing Haipeng and China's first woman in space Liu Yang, separated their Shenzhou 9 capsule from the Tiangong-1 module on Wednesday (June 27) at around 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT June 28). It was the first time a Chinese spacecraft was undocked under manual control.

During their nearly 10-day stay aboard the Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace," all the mission's planned medical and science experiments were completed and produced valuable data, said Chen Shanguang, chief commander of the mission's astronaut system.

"[This] data will help us improve technologies for astronauts' future, long-term stays in a space station," the state-run Xinhua news service quoted Chen as saying.

With Shenzhou 9's departure, the Tiangong-1 prototype space station will be returned to its previous higher orbit to wait for another visiting spacecraft.

The lab module was designed to operate for two years and host six dockings. It has been in space for 272 days and was the target for four docking between the Shenzhou 8 and Shenzhou 9 missions.

"Based on current conditions, the service of the Tiangong-1 can be extended," said the chief commander of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft He Yu. "It has consumed less than one-fourth of its fuel and no back up systems have been used."

If the systems were improved and its operation was under careful monitoring and control, the service could be much longer, He added.

"If Tiangong-1 was in perfect shape, it could work side by side with the Tiangong-2, which will be launched in the future," he said.

Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
China's Shenzhou 9 astronauts land safely after history-making mission

Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth Thursday evening (June 28), ending a nearly 13-day mission that advanced China's plans for a space station.

The Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, with Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first woman in space Liu Yang aboard, landed at 10:04 p.m. EDT (0204 GMT June 29) in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China.

See here for discussion about China's Shenzhou 9 mission to Tiangong-1.

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