China has successfully carried out an automated docking between a manned Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.
(China's first automatic space docking)
The spacecraft blasted off on Saturday for a 13-day mission. China’s first female space explorer, 33-year-old Liu Yang, is among the three crew members.
Monday’s docking with the Tiangong-1 orbital module is the third such maneuver performed by the Chinese, although it has not previously been done by a manned spacecraft.
Prominent Russian space expert Igor Lisov said the docking was very efficient, and the speed and accuracy was even greater than when Russian Soyuz and Progress spacrafts dock to the ISS. Lisov also noted that this latest success means that China is closer than ever to the two leading 'space nations' – Russia and the US.
China has been making great progress since sending its first astronaut (or taikonaut) into space in 2003. China's earliest efforts in rocketry in the 1950's (sponsored by Russia) faltered after the Sino-Soviet split in 1960. An effort to compete in the race to the moon followed in 1967, but did not survive the death of Mao in 1976, when programs were stopped or slowed.
The first science fiction writer that I recall predicting great success for China's space program was Arthur C. Clarke. In his excellent 1980 novel 2010: Odyssey Two, Clarke had the Chinese ship Tsien arriving in Jupiter's orbit along with the joint American-Russian team.
Tsien had closed down all voice, video, and data circuits two hours before, as the long-range antennas were withdrawn into the protective shadow of the heat shield. Only the omnidirectional beacon was still transmitting, accurately pinpointing the Chinese ship's position as it plunged toward that ocean of continent-sized clouds...