Photo taken on Nov. 14, 2011 shows the simulation picture of the second space docking between China's Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1, in the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, in Beijing, capital of China. China's Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft successfully re-docked with the Tiangong-1, a module of the country's planned space lab on Monday. (Xinhua/Wang Jianmin)
BEIJING, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Mastery of know-how is not always solid until proven by repeated experiments.
With a string of sophisticated maneuvers, docking, de-linking and re-docking, as part of its current Shenzhou-8 space mission, China has laid a solid stepping stone for deep space exploration.
The autonomous docking know-how now enables China to build space stations, re-supply them, transfer astronauts and rescue them.
As the capacity of carrier rockets increases and space docking technologies mature, mankind may consider travel to planetary destinations much farther than the moon.
No single country can unilaterally fulfill that ambition.
The Chinese space feat coincides with two latest Russian launches -- one failed to catapult a Chinese Mars probe into orbit and the other is transporting Russian and American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
It has been more than half a century since the Soviet Union sent its first satellite into the heavens, ushering in the space age. Space adventure requires cooperation and collaboration among all spacefaring nations, and such cooperation was even seen in the harshest years of the Cold War.
Nowadays, the increasing complexity and cost of human space programs require more collaboration among countries, especially against the backdrop of the continuing global financial crisis. Huge expenses and complex missions, such as a Martian expedition, would probably be beyond the resources of any one country or even one regional bloc.
Although China has been denied access to the ISS for two decades, Chinese technologists designed an androgynous docking system that allows any two similarly equipped spacecraft to dock with each other. Tiny adjustments could make the Chinese docking mechanism compatible with the ports of the ISS and U.S. space shuttles.
As part of its first space docking mission, China allowed Germany to conduct biological experiments in the Chinese vehicle -- the first instance of international cooperation since the beginning of China's manned space program.
China's future space station will weigh about 60 tonnes and is set to be assembled in space around 2020, in time for the likely retirement of the ISS. It will offer more opportunity for collaboration among nations, with room for international experiments and possibly space for foreign astronauts.
At the same time, China needs advanced space technologies from other countries. For example, China's transmission of scientific data and live communication from deep space to earth might largely rely on Russian and European space monitoring networks.
China is now joining the global efforts to build such infrastructure.
The concept of a "space race" is now obsolete. International cooperation is the future trend and rivalry between so-called space powers will inevitably give way to more friendly cooperation.
An already tech-savvy China is ready to make further contributions to space exploration, not only for its own, but also for the sake of the entire world.
China completes second space docking test
BEIJING, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- China's Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft re-docked successfully with the Tiangong-1, a module of the country's planned space lab, Monday evening, according to the mission's control center.
About half an hour before this docking, the Shenzhou-8 had successfully disengaged from Tiangong-1 after a 12-day flight together. Full story