Chinese people were anxiously awaiting news of the country's first manual space docking when this issue of Beijing Review went to press on June 21. If the operation went smoothly, one of the three astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which took off on June 16, should have manually connected their capsule with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module on June 24. The Shenzhou-9 crew includes the first Chinese woman to enter space.
Only with manual docking technologies, China is fully able to transfer astronauts and cargo to an orbiter in space. They are a key technical foundation for achieving the country's plan to assemble a manned space station in orbit by 2020.
As China pursues new aerospace breakthroughs, there have also been critical efforts for an achievement of equal significance in deep-sea exploration. Having repeatedly set the country's deep-sea diving record since June 15, the Jiaolong manned submersible is scheduled to dive 7,000 meters into the Mariana Trench before early July. If the attempt succeeds, China will have the capability to conduct scientific surveys in 99.8 percent of the Earth's seabed.
Before China, only four countries—the United States, Japan, France and Russia—had manned deep-sea submersibles. But Jiaolong is the first designed to reach a depth of 7,000 meters. China's ultimate objective is to build manned submersibles capable of diving 11,000 meters, the depth of the world's deepest trench.
In the past decades, China has invested heavily in science, with an emphasis on the development of proprietary technologies. Its efforts are paying off. All technologies and equipment used in China's space and deep-sea exploration programs are domestically developed.
The nation has always maintained that outer space and deep-sea discoveries belong equally to all of mankind and all research results in these fields should be shared worldwide.
Since the inception of its space program, China has aimed to make positive contributions to the peaceful use of outer space and the well being of humanity. On June 12, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin again pledged that the nation is ready to conduct international cooperation on aerospace technologies on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.
The Chinese Government has also welcomed foreign scientists to conduct deep-sea scientific research aboard Jiaolong after it formally goes into service.
In mankind's research of the unknown, China's growing scientific and technological strength is certain to play a bigger role.