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A Chinese Long March 2F rocket successfully launched the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft today, June 16th 2012 at 10:37 UTC. On board two male and the first Chinese female astronauts are on board as they travel in orbit.

In the next few days they will manually dock to the Chinese Spacelab Tiangong-1 which was launched late last year. Their mission will last 2 weeks as they become the first Chinese manned vehicle to dock in orbit.

China performed their first ever manned automated docking today June 18th at 06:08 UTC when the manned Shenzhou 9 spacecraft docked with the Tiangong-1 Spacelab.

Tiangong-1 launched last year and has been waiting for inhabitants since, Shenzhou 9 launched three Chinese astronauts a couple days ago and later they will open the hatches and enter the small laboratory for the first time.

Shenzhou 9 crew enters the Tiangong-1 for the 1st time

China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its three-member crew has returned to Earth with a jarring, rolling ground landing in Inner Mongolia at 10:05 local time (02:05 GMT). While in space, the crew successfully carried out their 13-day mission, accomplishing a manual docking with the Tiangong-1 laboratory module and performing a series of experiments. The crew included the first Chinese woman in space, 33-year-old female fighter pilot Liu Yang, along with commander Jing Haipeng, and Liu Wang.

The China National Space Agency said the mission was a key step towards their goal of building a space station by 2020.


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