Crew members of the Chinese Shenzhou-9 spacecraft entered the Tiangong-1 space lab module about three hours after a successful automatic docking procedure June 18, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
Jing Haipeng, followed by Liu Wang and Liu Yang, became the first group of Chinese astronauts to enter an orbiter in space. Chinese television broadcast live images of the three waving to the camera inside the Tiangong-1 cabin against the backdrop of the national flag.
Shenzhou-9 is scheduled to stay in space for 13 days, conducting both the automatic docking and an upcoming manual docking with Tiangong-1.
“A manual docking, if successful, will demonstrate the country’s grasp of essential space rendezvous and docking know-how,” said Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of China’s manned space program. “It will mean China is fully capable of transferring human and cargo to an orbiter in space.”