Sky-high and abyss-deep: China’s double record-breaker (PHOTOS)

Docking in progress, CCTV video still.
China has reached two technological milestones spanning great depths and heights. In the earth’s orbit, the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft manually docked a space module while under the Pacific, a Jiaolong sub dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The symbolism behind the scheduling of the two historical events was far from coincidental. The three oceanographers manning the submersible during the 7,000 dive sent greetings to their three fellow “taikonauts” piloting the space capsule, wishing them luck in their mission.

The descent to a depth of 7,015 meters broke the Chinese national diving record. It was the fourth such dive in the mission, which started on June 15. The dive was conducted in heavy rain, according to a Xinhua report.

The space mission was also successful, with the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft undocking and again docking the Tiangong 1 module. For the first time, the procedure was performed manually rather than directed from the mission control center on the ground.

China became the third nation after Russia and the US to master the technology, which is crucial for the nation’s ambitious space program. The country wants to have a domestically-made manned space station operating by 2020.

The docking was the key part of the space mission. China launched the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which carried the country’s first female astronaut, last Saturday. The mission will now continue for four more days.

China seeks to develop a completely independent space exploration program. Beijing sees it as part of the country’s growing global influence, as China strives to become the world’s largest economy and take a more prominent political position on the terrestrial stage.

Shenzhou 9 crew members Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang. CCTV video still.
Shenzhou 9 crew members Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang. CCTV video still.
The Chinese submersible "Jiaolong" (AFP Photo / China out)
The Chinese submersible "Jiaolong" (AFP Photo / China out)