China makes historic space dock of Heavenly Palace modules

China made a historic space first today with the dock of the Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 modules, pieces of a permanent space station to be completed by 2020.

China made a historic first today in their budding space program with the dock in orbit of the Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 modules, the first pieces of a permanent space station called ‘Heavenly Palace.’ That’s according to China’s news agency Xinhua.

China’s historic space dock marks a milestone in their goal of establishing a permanent space station modeled after the Soviet Mir space station, and they expect it to be completed by 2020. After a further series of unmanned spacecraft, Xinhua reports that a female astronaut might be sent up to attempt China’s first manual docking in space.

China joins the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in successful docking of two spacecraft in orbit of Earth. The first was a manned space dock by NASA’s Gemini 8 mission in 1966, commanded by Neil Armstrong. The Soviets completed their first space docking with the unmanned Cosmos 186 with Cosmos 188 modules in 1967, and they later completed a manned space dock of Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 in 1969. China’s unmanned space dock of Shenzhou-8 with Tiangong-1 is their first.

Bottom Line: China made a historic first today for their space program in the successful docking in orbit of the Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 modules, the first pieces of a permanent space station planned for completion in 2020.

China’s Heavenly Palace blasts off

Jorge Salazar