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China sends unmanned craft into space

Old 11-01-2011
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Default China sends unmanned craft into space

A Chinese Long March rocket has blasted off, propelling an unmanned spacecraft into orbit in the next step towards the country's ambitious plans for a manned space station.

The Shenzhou 8 was launched at dawn from the north Gobi desert, entering orbit successfully, the official Xinhua news agency reported. It should dock with the Tiangong 1 module within two days, more than 200 miles above Earth.

"Mastering the technology of rendezvous and docking will lay a firm foundation for China to build a space station," Zhou Jianping, the chief designer of China's manned space engineering project, told Xinhua.

"Once we have mastered this technology, we will possess the basic technology and capacity to build a space station, and this will open up possibilities for even larger activities in space."

But he added: "Since we have never conducted a similar test before and the system is so complicated, we have many unknowns."

Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space programme, warned: "It is fairly difficult and risky to link up two vehicles travelling at high speeds in orbit, with a margin of error of no more than 20cm."

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