Published June 25, 2013
BEIJING (AFP) – China's Shenzhou-10 spacecraft has completed a challenging mission to manually dock with a space module and its three astronauts are expected to return to earth on Wednesday, state media said Tuesday.
The astronauts have completed their mission after docking twice with the Tiangong-1 space module, where they conducted medical experiments and delivered a lecture to schoolchildren, China's official Xinhua news agency said.
The spacecraft pulled off the tricky manoeuvre of manually detaching from the module before returning to its previous point of orbit, the report said.
The successful manoeuvre was China's first ever such test, the report said, and it marks a step towards China's goal of building a permanent manned space station by 2020.
China first sent a human into space only in 2003 and its capabilities still lag behind the US and Russia. But its programme is highly ambitious and includes plans to land a man on the moon.
Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.