BEIJING, June 18 (RIA Novosti)
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China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft has automatically docked with the Tiangong-1 lab module on Monday, Chinese media reported, quoting the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
The Shenzhou-9, with three crew members on board, including China’s first female astronaut, 33-year-old Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng, 45, and Liu Wang, 43, blasted off from the Jiuquan space center in the Gobi Desert on Saturday.
Some three hours after the docking, the crew members floated into the 15-cubic-meter cabin of the orbiting module, known as "Heavenly Palace," becoming the first group of Chinese to enter an orbiter in space, Xihua said.
They are scheduled to perform a manned docking test, the first of its kind for China, in six days, the report said.
The news agency quoted Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China's manned space program, as saying the manual docking, if successful, “will demonstrate the country's grasp of essential space rendezvous and docking know-how.
“It will mean China is fully capable of transferring human and cargo to an orbiter in space,” Zhou said.
The Tiangong-1 lab module was launched in September 2011, paving the way for China to become a major space power, capable of operating a permanent space station.
In 2011 Chinese space officials announced plans to build a 60-ton space station by 2020, and develop a space freighter, to haul supplies to the station. China's ambitious space program has enjoyed sound success in the past decade, including putting a human into orbit and launching a lunar probe.
The Shenzhou-9 mission, which will last ten days, is China’s fourth manned spaceflight.
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