Earlier today, Chinese astronauts were able to successfully dock two spaceships in earth’s orbit for the first time, marking a significant milestone in China’s quest to build its own manned station in space. The Shenzhou 9 spacecraft – manned by a three-person crew or “taikonauts” that included China’s first woman in space, Liu Yang – successfully linked with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1 module in automatic mode. Later this week, the Shenzhou 9 crew will undock their spacecraft from the Tiangong 1 module after which it will re-dock again in manual mode for another test.
For now, the taikonauts will explore the Tiangong 1 module and will search for trinkets or ornaments that have been planted in the lab in order to test the crew’s puzzle-solving abilities in orbit. China’s primary goal will be able to eventually land its taikonauts on the moon. Today’s milestone marks China as the third country, after the U.S. and Russia, to ever achieve such feat. “We are one step closer to our destination of constructing a future space station. This is the first successful crew transportation mission for China,” a Chinese official working on the space program said.