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Astronauts into space module

By XIN DINGDING | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-14 01:34

Astronauts into space module

The giant screen in the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center broadcasts Shenzhou X spacecraft’s robotic docking with the Tiangong-1 space module on Thursday. Photo by Sun Yang / For China Daily 

Successful automatic docking reported by Beijing control center

The three Shenzhou X astronauts moved into the Tiangong-1 space module on Thursday following a successful automatic docking.

The spacecraft completed the docking procedure at 1:18 pm, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

It is the fifth docking between a Shenzhou spacecraft and the unmanned space module conducted by China.

The control center said Shenzhou X, launched on Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province, began to approach the Tiangong-1 automatically at 10:48 am, making contact with it at 1:11 pm.

The astronauts, sitting in the spacecraft’s re-entry capsule, monitored and reported the docking operation to the control center.

After the two spacecraft were locked together and the space module was checked, astronaut Nie Haisheng opened the doors leading to Tiangong-1 with help from fellow astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang.

Astronauts into space module

Photo taken on June 13, 2013 shows the screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center showing a simulated picture of an automated docking between the Shenzhou-X manned spacecraft and the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module. [Photo/Xinhua]

The three astronauts, clad in blue spacesuits, then floated into the module one by one. They later waved to a camera in the module.

In coming days they will live in the space module, carrying out scientific and technical experiments and giving a lecture to students on Earth, Wu Ping, spokeswoman for the program, said.

There will also be a manual docking between Shenzhou X and the module, although Wu did not give a date for this.

The mission is expected to help scientists verify and improve space rendezvous and docking technology, crucial for assembling an orbiting space station.

Space rendezvous and docking is a technically difficult procedure, with both vessels moving at 28,000 kilometers per hour during the docking, making the maneuver highly risky.

Jiao Weixin,a space scientist at Peking University, said space rendezvous and docking is hard to master. "It is like asking two racing cars to keep a distance of 1 meter between them."

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