China, which sent three astronauts into orbit a week ago, are to conduct the nation’s first manual space docking on Sunday- a key step to building a space station. In a brief dispatch, the official Xinhua news agency on Saturday quoted an unnamed spokesman for China’s manned space programme as saying that the highly complex manoeuvre would take place at noon the following day.
China’s current space mission was kicked off last Saturday when the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft took off carrying China’s first female astronaut. Two days later, it came together with the Tiangong-1 module already in orbit around Earth. China has carried out automatic dockings three times already, but the main goal of the current manned mission is to complete the first manual docking , which requires great accuracy from astronauts.
China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to perfect docking technology –a delicate manoeuvre that the Russians and Americans successfully completed in the 1960s.