Shenzhou-8 Touches Down Near Inner Mongolia
The Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft touched down successfully near the northern part of Inner Mongolia after a fiery re-entry to Earth. After spending more than two weeks in orbit, the Chinese spacecraft marked a significant moment in China’s plans to secure a long term manned foothold in space.
The successful return of the spacecraft shows China’s growing presence in space, along with its growing military and diplomatic presence. The space docking was part of China’s docking exercise with the Tiangong-1 module, which is a part of China’s exploratory preparations for a space laboratory.
The United States, Russia and other countries are jointly operate the International Space Station while China does not belong to this group. As of now the United States will not be testing any new rockets that will transport people to space until 2017. Russia also has no plans for manned space missions, as it is no longer their priority.
China’s first successful manned space mission was in 2003 with Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei orbiting the Earth. China launched its second moon orbiter last year, making it the third country to send astronauts walking in space. An unmanned moon landing and rover deployment is also being planned for 2012.