SHANGHAI - China completed its first-ever manual docking between a manned spacecraft and an orbiting lab module on Sunday, putting it a step closer in an ambitious campaign to build a space station.

The Shenzhou 9 and its three-person crew, including the country's first woman in Space Liu Yang, separated about 400 meters from the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1 module for about two minutes before re-connecting under the manual control of the astronauts, with state television covering the event live.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Rendezvous and docking exercises between the two vessels are an important hurdle in China's efforts to acquire the technological and logistical skills to run a full space lab that can house astronauts for long periods.


The Shenzhou 9 had already conducted an automated docking with Tiangong 1, on June 18, a day after it blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.