Shenzhou-9 Spacecraft Set to Return Today
The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft will be returning to Earth today after being in space for nearly two weeks and doing a successful manual space docking in orbit. According to a program official the spacecraft will achieve touchdown at around 10 am.
The Chinese spacecraft carrying the three astronauts was launched from the remote location in the Gobi Desert last June 16. The spacecraft successfully linked with the orbiting space station Tiangong-1 last Sunday completing the mission goal of manual space docking as part of the country’s program to build a space station by 2020. Earlier in its mission the crew carried out a automatic space docking then did a manual space socking as backup in case emergencies and to reduce risks.
The manual space docking maneuver was successfully completed by the Russians and Americans in the 60s which involved two vessels that were orbiting the Earth coming together slowly without destroying each other.
Shenzhou-9 will manually separate itself from Tiangong-1 in its preparation for its return to Earth, the maneuver is also a first for the crew were a Chinese spacecraft manually dislodge itself with the target module.