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China conducts its first crewed spaceship docking, gives east Asia its place in space (updated)

China conducts its first crewed spaceship docking, gives east Asia its place in space (updated)
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|June 18, 2012 12:42 PM

Believe it or not, the only countries to have docked a human-helmed spacecraft in the first 50 years of spaceflight were Russia and the US. That small community just got bigger, as China's Shenzhou-9 has successfully docked with the Tiangong-1 module put in orbit for just such a test. The link-up is being used for experiments in the short term, but it's a key step in a program that will ultimately lead to a full-fledged Chinese space station. On top the wider ambitions, the docking also marks a victory for gender-neutral space travel: Liu Yang, one of three crew members, is the country's first female spacefarer. China's space program has a long road ahead, but it's clear the International Space Station won't be alone for much longer.

Update: Yes, China more accurately covers east Asia, not just the southeast. Our apologies!

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