The three Chinese crew from Shenzhou-9 docked and entered the spacelab live on television, making China only the third country, after the United States and Russia, to successfully perform such a maneuver.
The crew of the Chinese Shenzhou-9 spacecraft docked today with the Tiangong-1 mini-spacelab and the three taikonauts entered the small spacelab for the first time. China becomes only the third nation to have a manned craft rendezvous and dock with another spacecraft, behind the U.S. and Russia.
Commander Jing Haipeng led the crew into the lab, followed by Liu Wang and then later Liu Yang, China’s first female taikonaut. The Shenzhou capsule completed the docking maneuvers shortly after 0600 UTC (2 am EDT). The two spacecraft are about 343 kilometers (213 miles) above Earth. The docking was shown live on national television.
This docking was automated and monitored by China’s mission control. A manual docking by the crew will be done later in the mission.
The docking video is above.
Astronauts will live and work in the module for several days doing medical experiments along with studies of live butterflies, butterfly eggs and pupae. This first mission is just the beginning of China’s preparations for having a permanently manned space station, which they hope to have built by 2020.