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In Photos: Tiangong-1, China's Space Station Fell to Earth

Watching Each Move

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Chinese scientists monitor the docking of the Tiangong-1 space lab module and the Shenzhou VIII spacecraft in space at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern province of Gansu on November 3, 2011. China took a crucial step towards fulfilling its ambition to set up a manned space station by completing its first successful docking high above Earth, state media reported.

Tiangong-1-Shenzhou-8 Docking

CNTV/CCTV

Chinese TV shows the Tiangong 1 module docking with the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft Nov. 2, 2011.

Orbital Transfers and testing

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Oct. 2, 2011, Tiangong-1 completed the second of two orbital transfer maneuvers, reaching an apogee altitude of 362 kilometres (225 mi).This was the precursor to a week-long program of orbital testing, conducted from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, to prepare the module for future orbital docking operations. 3D model of the Chinese space station Tiangong orbiting the planet Earth.

Into Space

VCG/Getty

A 'Long March' 2F rocket carrying a Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 16, 2012 in Jiuquan, China. The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft carrying three crew members was launched at 6:37 p.m. (1037 GMT) on June 16 to perform the country's first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab, which was launched last September.

Shenzhou 9 Commander Boards Tiangong 1

CNTV

China's Shenzhou 9 mission commander Jing Haipeng waves to a camera after boarding the Tiangong 1 space module following a successful June 18, 2012 docking, China's first manned orbital rendezvous, in this view from state-run TV news.

China Shifts Space Station Project Into Overdrive

CCTV

The first public appearance of China's space station concept.

Shenzhou 9 Crew Celebrates Manual Docking

China Manned Space Engineering

The three astronauts aboard China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft grasp hands to celebrate their successful manned docking with the Tiangong 1 orbiting module on June 24, 2012. At center is astronaut Liu Wang, who piloted the successful docking. Mission commander Jing Haipeng is at left with astronaut Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, at right.

Approach in Progress

STR/AFP/Getty

A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft approching Tiangong-1 module for the automatic docking on July 18, 2012. Three Chinese astronauts entered an orbiting module for the first time, a key step towards the nation's first space station, a move broadcast live on China's state television network, as China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to perfect docking technology

Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 9

Stephen Mudge

Skywatcher Stephen Mudge captured this photo of the Chinese Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 9 spacecraft docked together over Brisbane, Australia June 20, 2012.

Beginning the Process

STR/AFP/Getty

A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows three Chinese astronauts (from left) Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in the preparation for docking with the Tiangong-1 module on July 18, 2012. Three Chinese astronauts entered an orbiting module for the first time, a key step towards the nation's first space station, a move broadcast live on China's state television network, as China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to perfect docking technology.

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