China successfully launches unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8
China has successfully launched its unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 for the country’s first space docking. It marks a major step towards the nation’s ultimate goal of building a permanent space station by around 20-20.
It’s a breathtaking countdown to another milestone on China’s space
journey. Shenzhou-8 blasts off, high into the sky.
It’s carried by a modified model of the Long March CZ-2F rocket.
Escape tower, rocket booster and fairing are sequentially separated.
Back on the ground, space engineers are tracking the spacecraft to check whether everything is working as expected.
The staff declare all systems normal, the interfaces of different systems are well coordinated, and all facilities are sound.
Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang and Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission Xu Caihou were on hand at the launch centre to witness the exciting moment.
When Shenzhou-8 entered its intended orbit, cheers of celebration burst out at the mission control.
It was relief as well as elation in the air as the chief commander declared the launch a success.
Chang Wanquan, Chief Commander of China Manned Space Engineering Project, said, " According to the Aerospace command and Control Centre in Beijing,
Shenzhou-8 has entered the targeted orbit. I declare the launch a success."
The spacecraft is due to dock with China’s first space lab module Tiangong-1 within two days.
They will separate after flying together for 12 days but are set to carry out a second docking later on.
The successful completion of the mission will make China the third nation in the world to master the docking technology after the US and Russia, paving the way for the nation to place a space station in orbit around 2020.
But more challenges remain ahead for China as it strives to realize its dream of a manned space station.
Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 are awaiting take-off to work with the space lab Tiangong-1 on future missions.