24 Jun 2012

Chinese astronauts mark first manual space docking

7:11 pm on 24 June 2012

China has completed its first-ever manual docking between a manned spacecraft and an orbiting lab module, putting it a step closer in its aim of building a space station.

The Shenzhou 9 and its three-person crew had already conducted an automated docking with Tiangong 1, six days ago.

Manual docking is more challenging in terms of orbit control.

Rendezvous and docking exercises between the two vessels are an important hurdle in China's efforts to acquire the technological and logistical skills to run a full space lab that can house astronauts for long periods.