Three Chinese astronauts in a space capsule on Sunday dramatic the first manual docking home with another spacecraft, a new step in China's efforts to achieve the accomplishments of the United States and Russia in space.
The coupling between 9 and Shenzhou orbital module Tiangong 1 was broadcast live on national television. Both ships had been fitted on 18 June, but the maneuver was carried out by remote control from a base in China.
Chinese astronauts have been living and working in the module for a week as part of preparations to establish a permanent station in orbit. For the maneuver on Sunday, returned to the Shenzhou 9 and undocked ships in preparation for reattachment, this time manually.
Wu Ping, spokeswoman of China's manned space program, told reporters in Beijing that the astronauts used hand controls to control the Shenzhou 9 and put it into position for docking with the orbital module. The maneuver was "precise and perfect" and the three astronauts made "calmly and ability," said Wu.
Future goals of China manned mission to include another module this year and the gradual replacement of Tiangong 1, launched last year by a permanent station, a goal to be completed around 2020. Future missions may include sending a man to the moon.
China's future space station will weigh about 60 tons, slightly less than NASA's Skylab launched in the 1970s and about one-sixth of the International Space Station, where 16 nations working together.
Among the crew of Shenzhou 9 is Liu Yang, 33, an Air Force pilot and the first Chinese woman in China in space. The other two are the veteran astronaut and mission commander Jing Haipeng, 45, and Liu Wang, 43.
The mission, expected to last about 10 days, is the fourth Chinese manned space program. The Shenzhou-9 was launched on June 16 from the Jiuquan center on the edge of the Gobi Desert in northern China.
China hopes to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to send space stations orbit maintained independently. It is now one of only three countries to launch manned spacecraft on its own.