The Long March Rocket and Shenzou 9 lift off………Credit: China National Space Administration
Only a few days ago the media was celebrating the success of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, the first commercial (private) craft to dock with the International Space Station. It brought some supplies to the ISS and took waste material back. Today there might be some coverage of China’s Shenzhou 9 doing pretty much the same thing with the Chinese prototype space station (Tiangong 1) – only there were three people on board, “taikonauts” – two men and a woman. The Shenzhou 9 was launched aboard the Chinese Long March rocket from Jiuquan Space Launch Center in western China. Previous Chinese flights had put people into space, but this mission is an order of magnitude more difficult and risky. It signals, if any was needed, that the Chinese are now competent to operate an ambitious space program.