BEIJING – Two unmanned Chinese spacecraft docked above Earth successfully early today, moving China one step closer to setting up its own space station.
The Shenzhou 8 craft that was launched Tuesday docked with the already orbiting Tiangong 1 module, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China’s manned space program.
The U.S. and Russia are the only other countries to master the space docking technique.
It was “a milestone success and sets a sound foundation for continued missions,” Wu said.
China launched its own space station program after being turned away in its repeated attempts to join the 16-nation International Space Station. That was largely on objections from the United States, which is wary of the Chinese space program’s military links.
Experts see no explicit military function for the Chinese space station.
In terms of technology, the launch of the Tiangong-1 places China about where the U.S. was in the 1960s during the Gemini program. But experts say China progresses further than the U.S. did with each launch it undertakes.