Two Chinese spacecrafts successfully completed China’s first space docking (对接) early November 3, 2011, which has taken the country a step closer to building its own space station.
Nearly two days after its launch, the unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou VIII docked with the space lab module Tiangong I more than 343 km above the earth surface. Shenzhou VIII and Tiangong I took apart after flying together for 12 days. On the 14th of November, the two spacecrafts finished the second docking. Then Shenzhou VIII parted from Tiangong I again and returned to the earth safely on the 17th. Tiangong I is still traveling around the earth in the space, waiting for the arrival of Shenzhou IX and X and so on in the near future.
That marked another great leap for China’s space program and made China the third country in the world, after the United States and Russia, master the space docking technique (空间对接技术).
The world’s first space docking was achieved in 1966, when the manned U.S, spacecraft Gemini 8 docked with an unmanned Agena Target Vehicle. Space docking is necessary to explore space beyond Earth’s orbit (轨道). “The capability increases China’s ability to act independently in space, as well as its ability to work together with others,” said Gregory Kulacki, a U.S. space scientist and senior analyst.
“With the success of its first space docking, China is now equipped with the basic technology and ability required for the construction of a space station,” said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program.” The country is on its way to building a permanent manned space station around 2020.”
小题1:What did the success of the first space docking mean to China?