The image above is from the screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and Tiangong-1 lab module, partly seen on left, are conjoined again Sunday, June 24, 2012. Three Chinese astronauts Sunday successfully completed a manual docking between of the spacecraft and the orbiting module, the first such attempt in China's history of space exploration.The mission, which is expected to last at least 10 days, is China's fourth manned mission. Shenzhou 9 launched June 16 from the Jiuquan center on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China.
China is hoping to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to send independently maintained space stations into orbit --The Tiangong 1, which was launched last year, is due to be replaced by a permanent space station around 2020. China is already one of just three nations to have launched manned spacecraft on their own. Another manned mission to the module is planned later this year. Possible future missions could include sending a man to the moon.
The Daily Galaxy via AP and Beijing Aerospace Control Center via Xinhua