China Blasts Off On Unmanned Space Mission

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PostTue Nov 01, 2011 10:44 pm » by Cwmman


China has launched an unmanned spacecraft which will carry out a docking experiment in the next step towards building its first space station.
The Shenzhou VIII blasted off from the Gobi desert before separating from its carrier rocket 120 miles above the Earth.
It is due to link up with the Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace) experimental module on Thursday in what would be the country's first space docking.
The ability to dock successfully is crucial to the success of China's plans to build a space station where astronauts can live for several months, as they do on the International Space Station.
The technology is hard to master because the two vessels, placed in the same orbit and revolving around the Earth at 17,400mph, must come together progressively to avoid destroying each other.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once-poor nation.
It began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology.
In 2003 it became the third country to send humans into space, following the former Soviet Union and the US.
In September 2008, the Shenzhou VII, piloted by three astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.
The launch of Tiangong-1 on September 29 was attended by Premier Wen Jiabao, while President Hu Jintao watched from a space flight control centre in Beijing.

But Beijing is playing catch-up in the space arena, as the planned space docking will only emulate what the Americans achieved in 1966.

If successful, next year China will launch another two spacecraft, at least one of which will be manned, to conduct more docking tests.

:headscratch: why
You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—
after they’ve tried everything else.
Winston Churchill.

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