They’ve completed their mission and the locking of two space vehicles gives the Chinese hope that they’ll soon have their own space station floating above the Earth! Here is a bit of the story from french news:
The Shenzhou VIII spacecraft joined onto the Tiangong-1 experimental module just after 1.36 am (1736 GMT Wednesday), silently coupling more than 343 kilometres (213 miles) above the Earth’s surface, the Xinhua news agency said.
The Shenzhou vehicle, whose name translates as “divine vessel”, is a modified version of the capsules that took the first Chinese astronauts into space as part of the rising power’s ambitious exploration programme.
China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to perfect docking technology — a delicate manoeuvre that the Russians and Americans successfully completed in the 1960s.
The technique is hard to master because the two vessels, placed in the same orbit and revolving around the Earth at thousands of kilometres per hour, must come together very gently to avoid destroying each other.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.