Beijing: Three Chinese astronauts in the core module of the country’s under-construction space station have for the first time successfully completed the manual rendezvous and docking experiment with the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft, China’s national space agency said on Saturday.

The astronauts in the core module teleoperated the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft to leave the front docking port of the core module’s node cabin and move to the planed parking point, with the coordination of ground control engineers, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

After a short stay in the parking point, the cargo craft moved towards the space station complex and completed the rendezvous and docking by the teleoperation of astronauts.

The experiment took about two hours and was successfully completed at 7:55 a.m. (Beijing Time), the CMSA said.

The experiment was the first time that the three Chinese astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping, used manual teleoperation equipment to operate the cargo craft and the space station to conduct rendezvous and docking, according to the Xinhua report.

China had launched the Shenzhou-13 spaceship on October 16, sending three astronauts on a six-month mission to the under-construction space station, which was expected to be ready by next year.

This is the second manned mission for China’s space station. Earlier, three other astronauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – returned to earth on September 17 after a successful three-month stay in the space station module during which they carried out several tasks to build it.

Once ready, China will be the only country to own a space station of its own as the International Space Station (ISS) of Russia is a collaborative project of several countries.

China Space Station (CSS) is also expected to be a competitor to the ISS.

Observers say that CSS may become the sole space station to remain in orbit once the ISS retires in the coming years.

According to Xinhua, the manual teleoperation is a backup for automated rendezvous and docking of unmanned visiting spacecraft.

The experiment also tested the function and the performance of manual teleoperation equipment, as well as the coordination procedure between space and Earth, the CMSA added.

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