China's newly launched Shenzhou-11 spacecraft has successfully docked with space lab Tiangong-2 at 3:31 a.m. Beijing Time on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
China's state TV beamed live videos of the docking process where astronauts were seen floating in zero gravity while making their bid to enter the space lab through a designated pathway. The crew will be staying in the space lab for a month.
Launched from China's Gobi Desert on Monday, Oct. 17, aboard a Long March-2F Y11 carrier rocket, the spacecraft carried astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong.
While mission commander Jing steered the spacecraft and led the docking procedure, Chen is tasked with experiments at the lab. Shenzhou 11's experiments will include taking silk worms into space.
The Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said Shenzhou-11 neared Tiangong-2 at 1:11 a.m. and established contact with the space lab at 3:24 a.m.
Soon after the docking with Tiangong-2, the Chinese astronauts pulled open the door of Shenzhou-11 and proceeded to a passage that led them to the space lab's door.
The automated docking process happened 244 miles above Earth. They promptly relayed the findings of the docking process to the control room.
According to reports, the space lab Tiangong-2 is 34 feet long, weighs 9.5 tons and came into orbit on Sept. 15.
China As An Elite Space Power Club
The docking of the space craft with the space lab has made China the third country to carry out crewed missions after the U.S. and Russia.
Marking a major boost in China's space endeavors, including a permanent space station by 2022, the new space mission has become a major milestone for the Asian country.
China's first ever space lab Tiangong-1 hit space in September 2011 and did three dockings. Chinese space officials predict it to fall into Earth's atmosphere by late 2017. The manned space mission of 2013 had three Chinese astronauts spending 15 days in orbit and docking with Tiangong-1. The mission's Shenzhou spacecraft was phased out in March.
Regarding the astronauts' fitness, the Astronaut Centre of China has clarified that they have qualified adaptation phase and adjusted to the weightless environment. They are in good physical and mental shape, sources claimed.
However, certain changes are inevitable, such as a moderate decline in cardiovascular conditions and loss of bone and muscle mass. The astronauts will have an 8-hour work schedule for six days in a week.