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213 miles up, Chinese astronauts achieve milestone (+Video)

A trio of Chinese astronauts successfully manually docked their space capsule to a prototype orbiting module on Sunday.

A Chinese spaceship docks with an orbiting laboratory, marking another landmark in the country's fast-advancing space programme. Andrew Raven reports.
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Three Chinese astronauts manually docked their space capsule at an orbiting module Sunday (June 24), a major first for China's space program and the country's plans to build a large space station.

The astronauts docked their Shenzhou 9 spacecraft with the unmanned Tiangong 1 module 213 miles (343 kilometers) above Earth. It was the second orbital linkup in a week for the two spacecraft, which performed China's first automated space docking June 18.

Shenzhou 9's astronauts Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang — who is China's first female astronaut — are the fourth Chinese crew to fly in space. The astronauts launched into orbit on June 16, atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's northern Gansu province.

Tiangong 1 has been in orbit since September 2011, and was part of China's first robotic docking with the unmanned Shenzhou 8 capsule in November. The Shenzhou 9 crew made their first docking with Tiangong 1 June 18, marking the first time a manned Chinese spacecraft has docked with another vehicle in orbit. [Shenzhou 9: China's 1st Manned Space Docking (Pictures)]

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