Shenzhou X Completes Successful Docking Mission

China’s Shenzhou 10 spacecraft successfully touched down in Inner Mongolia on Wednesday, completing a 15-day docking mission with China’s first space station. From Reuters:

The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft, China’s fifth manned space mission since 2003, completed the final trial docking with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1, critical in Beijing’s quest to build a working space station by 2020.

China Central Television showed the re-entry of the capsule, dangling from an orange parachute, and its landing on flat grasslands shortly after 8 a.m. China time.

[...] China is still far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the United States and Russia, which decades ago learned the docking techniques carried out by the Shenzhou 10.

China must still master launching cargo and fuel via space freighters and recycling air and water for extended manned missions, state media have said. Plans call for a working space lab, the Tiangong 2, to be put into orbit in two years. [Source]

Shenzhou 10 launched from the Gobi Desert on June 11 and docked with Tiangong 1 two days later, with astronaut Wang Yaping (China’s second female in space) giving a “space class” lecture to students back home via live video. The director of China’s manned space program declared the mission “a complete success,” according to the Associated Press, as the three crew members emerged from the capsule on live television:

“Space is our dream, the fatherland is our home. Thanks to all compatriots who supported us and best wishes for the wealth and success of our fatherland and the ever greater happiness of our people,” mission commander and two-time space traveler Nie Haisheng said to the cameras.

Wang Haiping, China’s second female astronaut to complete a mission, said the trip had been especially worthwhile for the opportunity to conduct China’s first science class in space, beamed live to 60 million schoolchildren across the country.

“I hope all our young friends may wish beautiful dreams and may their dreams come true,” said Wang, who, like her two colleagues, was still clad in her space suit and seated under bright sunshine in white folding chairs in front of the round-edged module. [Source]

President Xi Jinping spoke to the astronauts prior by video prior to their return and called the Shenzhou X mission “part of the dream to make China stronger,” according to the state-run Global Times, which questioned whether China had the “rich space culture” to make that dream a reality:

A mature space program is undoubtedly an indication of national strength. In this sense, China has made it. But does China really have dreams of space?

Currently, China’s passion to develop the space technology mainly lingers at the government level. Some even blame the government for political vanity and question whether the money couldn’t be spent improving people’s livelihoods.

Scientific value and creative visions of the future are largely absent from Chinese mass culture. Few domestic sci-fi films have been made. At the same time, sci-fi films produced by the US, the world’s No.1 space power, have huge appeal to Chinese fans. In many Hollywood films, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) often appears on screen. NASA also provides scientific support behind the scenes. [Source]