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

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 18, 2012
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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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