China joined two spacecraft together for the first time Nov. 3 when the unmanned Shenzhou-8 capsule successfully docked with the space lab module Tiangong-1, the state-run Xinhua news service reported.

China said equipment was working properly after the docking, which it called a “major technological breakthrough,” and the coupled craft had orbited Earth nearly six times. Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 will fly together for about 12 days before conducting another docking, Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China’s manned space program, said.

“Acquisition of the space docking technology is vital for China to implement the three-phase development strategy of its manned space program and to promote the sustained development of its manned space cause,” Wu said.


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