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China achieves space docking

Shenzhou8 and Tiangong1 Docking

Little over a month ago, China launched the Tiangong-1 space lab module and announced a planned next step of conducting space docking within two months. Launched couple of days ago, Shenzhou-8 has made a successful space dock with Tiangong-1. This is a major milestone for China’s space program as this is a crucial step in building a space station.

China is the third nation to achieve this capability. The U.S. first achieved it back in 1966. China’s solution is unique. The China Daily report quoted Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the global security program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit scientific advocacy group based in the United States:

“China’s pursuit of an original solution to space docking, that is based on their understanding of the experience of other nations, could lead to innovations or experiences other space-faring nations could find useful.”

Russia and the U.S. are of course much more experienced. In 2007, two U.S. satellites were able to dock autonomously. That opened the door for configurable and upgrade-able satellites.

Russia was the first nation to do this. Russia’s Progress cargo ships dock with the International Space Station without any ground control intervention. In 2005, the U.S.’ $100 million DART mission to achieve autonomous docking failed.

Infographic of Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 below is from Space.com.

Learn about the docking of China's Shenzhou 8 and the Tiangong space station in this SPACE.com infographic.
Source: SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

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  1. dan
    November 2nd, 2011 at 17:23 | #1

    A small step for China, a big step for all Chinese!

  2. zack
    November 2nd, 2011 at 19:02 | #2

    Congratulations to everyone involved from the engineers, technicians, policymakers and tea makers and to all of humanity!

  3. xian
    November 2nd, 2011 at 19:49 | #3

    Congrats to all. May China lead the way in space exploration.

  4. November 3rd, 2011 at 06:15 | #4

    It is better than a turtle than a hare.

    Resume from an unemployed NASA researcher:
    Years of valuable, classified experience. PhD and considered to be the top scientist in the world. Abandoned by his country due to poor management and stupid politics. Will work for peanuts in any place in this planet and beyond. Desperate, proud, dedicated, heart broken, patriotic but confused. Reply to my broken trailer or see me, an old man with thick glasses, carrying a sign asking for a dollar in the highway leading to the Cape’s deserted launch pad.

  5. silentvoice
    November 3rd, 2011 at 07:59 | #6

    dan :
    A small step for China, a big step for all Chinese!

    Well said! I have no doubt the Chinese will place the next human on the moon. Just look at the number of engineers they produce and compare the science and math scores of chinese-americans vs. the rest.

    It would have been a nice gesture if the US had invited China to participate in the International Space Station project, but no, they chose to shun China… but it’s okay, they will get there, one step at a time. 🙂

  6. Joe
    November 4th, 2011 at 12:39 | #7

    The average age of China’s space scientists is only 32 years old and the youngest being 26. That augers exceedingly well for China’s space exploration in future. This is coupled with the strong backing of the country and finance ! Congratulations China!

  7. kchew
    November 4th, 2011 at 17:05 | #8

    There are also a number of negative comments by Chinese netters on SZ8, who believe it is a wasteful endeavour as there are millions of poor people in China.

    Here’s Sima Nan reply to them:


  8. JJ
    November 4th, 2011 at 23:19 | #9


    On one hand, I can understand their point of view, but on another, this scientific achievement will improve China for the long run.

    Hopefully the government can focus on both.

  9. zack
    November 4th, 2011 at 23:22 | #10

    negative comments by bloggers are about as representative of popular Chinese opinion as maddox or stormfront are when it comes to western public opinion; meaning not at all.
    This love affair western media outlets have when it comes to Chinese bloggers as being somehow representative of all 1.3 billion souls in China is called lazy reporting; “hey, let’s not bother doing the legwork of interviewing all 1.3 billion ppl to get an accurate picture; let’s get the most sensationalistic blogger and assume his/her opinion counts for some 10 milliion’.

    In any case, considering the percentage of those who live in poverty in China and the rate of improving living standards and Gini coefficients in China compared to say, India, i think it’s more than worthwhile for China to invest in space science. Here’s an apt comparison; in China there are new roads, apartments, infrastructure, in India ppl still crap on the streets. Which do you think ought to cease spending on ‘wasteful endeavours’?

  10. November 5th, 2011 at 08:21 | #11

    I agree, China has actually invested a good percentage in R&D but is still behind in many areas due to being relatively poorer. One must bear in mind that it is the US military investement in space, aerospace, internet, GPS etc that allowed to US to have a lead in these areas.

    If China does not invest, they will never catch up.

  11. D858
    November 5th, 2011 at 11:14 | #12

    Interesting comment, because whenever I used to read news stories about China’s space program, the article always mentions at least once that there are people struggling to make ends meet in China. Meanwhile, if some news story reports on India’s space program, then it’s all good news and there’s no mention of that kind of thing.

    But maybe that’s all just because I’m not that interested in modern space programs anyway.

  12. zack
    November 5th, 2011 at 13:32 | #13

    the reason why India is given a free ride by the West is because the West is hoping to co-opt India away from Russia (India is a traditional Russian ally) to act as a “counterweight” to China; ie harassing and fomenting insurrection on China’s borders in the hopes of inciting a Chinese collapse.
    So for such things to happen, the Western media is ominously silent when it comes to atrocities in Kashmir, Manipur, Assam, etc etc.

    question now is, will Indians be stupid enough to fight slavishly for the white man as they’ve historically done in years past?

  13. raventhorn
    November 7th, 2011 at 06:22 | #14


    The other reason is India never bothered to stand up to the West, even after independence.

    Part of the reason that India sometimes worry and sometimes admire China, is that China was willing to stand up to the West AND USSR, to suit its own national interests.

    On that note, India will never be able to claim a reasonable “super power” status, when it always play the “good buddy” to the other “superpowers”.

  14. zack
    November 7th, 2011 at 11:52 | #15

    something sad i’ve noticed amongst a lot of former british colonial subjects such as kenyans or Indians is that they slavishly admire the British; of course they express pride in their national heritage and the educated amongst them take great lengths to emphasize their cultural heritage but they do nostalgically think of colonial days and even attempt to emulate those days.
    To put it more accurately, their colonial masters trained them to aspire to be more like them (more british, more ‘white’) and less like their indiegenous brethren, hence the attitude amongst some Indians of looking down on their fellow compatriots of a lower caste but attempting to fit in with British society by currying favour with them. THe British empire did well in making Indians a servile race for their interests.

  15. November 7th, 2011 at 12:34 | #16

    I think a really big factor is simply that human beings admire wealth and power.

    It is true – much of the Western press like to pit India and China against each other, and because they control the narrative, ‘truth’ might appear to be what they say.

    However, I don’t think that’s it. We don’t hear Indians or Chinese perspectives in the Western press about the two countries normalizing, because that’s not a narrative the Western media want.

    If you look at voting patterns in the U.N. between the two countries, you will see that they often are on the same side. If you see the results of their Peaceful Coexistence and other principals of relations, you will see that their ideals have gained a lot of traction on the global stage.

    If you look at Copenhagen, they stuck together.

    Given the two countries population and stage of development, they are really much more similar than not.

    Don’t let the ‘serviles’ skew the truth, because that’s precisely what the press want.

  16. November 7th, 2011 at 14:00 | #17

    I totally agree. The only serious problem China and India has is because some guy named McMahon drew a line in the sand for the then British Empire.

    India and China pretty much are on the same page be it on emission level, climate change, third world representation etc. Both abstained from resolution 1973 on Libya. Though they might have a few trade differences and security, it is because of the strategic distress caused by the contested border.

  17. JJ
    November 7th, 2011 at 22:47 | #18


    something sad i’ve noticed amongst a lot of former british colonial subjects such as kenyans or Indians is that they slavishly admire the British

    It’s colonial mentality.

    The racist institutions are still in place even after most of them left. I sometimes see it in Hong Kong as well.

    Albert Memmi has an awesome book The Colonizer and the Colonized that talks about this:


  18. November 15th, 2011 at 00:12 | #19

    Just saw report: the second dock was completed successfully – confirming repeatability of the docking technology. Also, China’s docking spec is compatible with the Russian Soyuz, as well as the ISS. China is smart to keep international cooperation in mind – despite politics from the U.S. to block her from participating in the ISS.

    The Shenzhou 8 in fact is now carrying out many experiments designed by the Germans.

  19. jxie
    November 19th, 2011 at 15:05 | #20

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