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China Space

China Completes Its First Manned Space Docking 130

Posted by timothy
from the rapid-progress dept.
This AP story, as carried by the Houston Chronicle, says that the Chinese Shenzhou 9 spacecraft (carrying a crew that includes the country's first female astronaut) has successfully docked with an orbiting module, a first for China's manned space program. However, manned mission or not, the actual docking was actually executed from below: as with previous docking maneuvers, "Monday's docking also was completed by remote control from a ground base in China. A manual docking, to carried out by one of the crew members, is scheduled for later in the mission. Two crew members plan to conduct medical tests and experiments inside the module, while the third will remain in the spacecraft."
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China Completes Its First Manned Space Docking

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  • by mister2au (1707664) on Monday June 18, 2012 @06:16AM (#40357629)

    Technically not third to reach the moon
    - Japan put up an orbiter (Hiten) in 1993
    - ESA put up SMART-1 in 2003
    - India crashed their Chandrayaan probe (deliberately an impact mission) a few years ago

    And even then, both India and the Europeans are targeting manned landings before China.

    Although even Iran has announced for 2025 so clearly some of these need to be taken with some skepticism

  • by abelb (1365345) on Monday June 18, 2012 @07:17AM (#40357805)
    Don't forget that China has successfully completed two orbital lunar missions with Chang'e 1 and 2.
  • by progician (2451300) on Monday June 18, 2012 @07:36AM (#40357855) Homepage
    No need for inventing new words: crewed.
  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:01AM (#40358251) Homepage Journal

    A huge difference between Gemini 8 and Shenzhou 9 is that Armstrong and Scott were actually piloting their spacecraft where instead the pilots of the Shenzhou spacecraft are sitting at mission control.

    I am fairly certain that if remote control technology has been sophisticated enough at the time, then NASA would also have done it by remote control.

    Not really. This is basically a difference in attitude towards those who are inside of the spacecraft, where an American philosophy is that those inside of the spacecraft ought to be much more directly in charge of what is going on, while the Chinese/Soviet philosophy was one of paranoia that the spaceflight participants might do something politically embarrassing so that authority was taken away.

    The original plan for the Mercury spaceflights was to be largely automated, with the astronauts being largely "spam in a can" and really not doing anything other than being a passenger and enjoying the ride. Considering the Mercury astronauts were all test pilot instructors (qualified not just as test pilots but to teach people how to become those as well), there was a minor revolt within the astronaut corps that insisted some level of actual piloting should take place inside of the spacecraft, where key decisions about the progress of the spacecraft such as abort decisions and proceeding through various milestones rested upon the mission commander... in some cases with the mission commander alone.

    Note also that much of the early NASA technology for launching astronauts into space came from the ICBM missile development, where significant automation already took place. The first spaceflights for the Mercury program used Chimpanzees, who obviously weren't rated as pilots or expected to do much other than take in the ride.

    I'll note that the attitude of allowing manual control has made a difference in several missions and allowed a successful conclusion to those missions that otherwise might have gone badly. Gemini 8 was one of those situations BTW, where the astronauts weren't able to explain their situation to ground control due to a loss of telemetry and garbled communications until after they had finally resolved the situation. Another was the ability of the astronauts to rework Apollo 13 in order to get them to come home. I'm sure other situations could be brought up where real piloting skill was applied, including John Glenn's decision to not jettison his retro-rockets on the Friendship 7 flight. John Glenn also switched to a manual flight mode due to problems he noticed during the flight, not trusting the automated system that was in place.

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