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Chinese Spacecraft Returns To Earth Following Docking Experiment

China Progressing With Plans For Its Own Space Station

The Chinese Shenzhou 8 spacecraft, which twice docked successfully with the Tiangong 1 module launched separately, returned to earth Thursday. China says it is working towards building its own space station, after being denied participation in the ISS program.

The unmanned spacecraft landed under a parachute in a desert in Western China after conducting the successful docking experiments. The mission was designed to prove that China could accomplish the docking procedure by remote control. Its a maneuver that was conducted manually by U.S. and Russian astronauts in the 1960s.

The Associated Press reports that, at around 60 tons, the Chinese space station would be much smaller than the ISS, which is supported by a 16-nation consortium.

The government space agency says it plans to attempt two docking missions next year, one of them with a manned vehicle. China joined the ranks of nations capable of launching manned space mission in 2003, and has reportedly made steady progress towards its goals in space. The principal objector to the country's participation in the ISS program in the U.S., which is wary of revealing secrets that could wind up in the hands of the Chinese military.

China says it would still like to cooperate with either NASA or the ESA, saying its current spacecraft could be easily adapted to the docking mechanisms used in the ISS program.



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