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Operating Shenzhou-9: Manual system fired up

06-26-2012 10:09 BJT Special Report: Shenzhou 9 's Docking Mission with Tiangong 1 |

China's first manned space docking mission will be followed up by a manual docking operation. When Shenzhou-9 docks with Tiangong-1 for a second time, the crew will be controlling the position and speed of the spacecraft.

Manual controls have been a feature of the Shenzhou series since Shenzhou-4 but until now, they’ve never been used. Following the automated docking operation, Shenzhou-9 will back up 400 meters away from Tiangong-1. It will then approach to within 140 meters of the space lab. It will be at this point that the controls will switch to manual and the astronauts will be maneuvering the vessel.

Zhang Bonan, chief designer of Shenzhou-9, said, "This marks the first time for Chinese astronauts to control the spacecraft manually. It will be a major test of their skills."

Astronauts have gone through rigorous training in a virtual capsule in preparation for the manual docking.

Ren Kun, deputy chief designer of Manned Docking Mission, said, "The two handles in the front control the movement of the spacecraft. The right one is for attitude control and the left one is for translation control.

Flying a space craft isn’t as simple as driving a car. Space makes it difficult for human eyes to judge relative positions, so astronauts need the help of a cross drone fixed on Tiangong-1 and a TV camera on the spacecraft itself.

Ren said, "The camera will shoot images of Tiangong 1. Our goal is to adjust this cross so that it fits with the cross drone, then we go ahead with the docking process. The two handles control direction. When the two crosses match, the docking process is a success."

When the docking process is complete, the screen will show the docking rings touching. That will let the crew know the operation has been successful. Maneuvering in space is a difficult process requiring good judgment, perfect coordination and the ability to process information quickly and accurately. There are all necessary skills a successful manned docking.

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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