China Successfully Launches Docking Spacecraft into Orbit

China’s space agency announced Monday the country had successfully launched its Shenzhou-8 spacecraft into orbit, the first step in a planned space docking operation and a significant milestone for the country’s burgeoning space program. The event was televised nationally, as the unmanned Shenzhou-8 module took off on a Long March-2F rocket, on the first part of its journey to dock with the eight-ton Tiangong I, an experimental space laboratory China launched just over a month ago with enough supplies to sustain one astronaut for about 60 days, reported the Los Angeles Times blog. Chinese space officials and engineers said the anticipated docking, which will occur Nov. 3, is a major accomplishment in the country’s efforts to open its own permanent space station around 2020, according to the Xinhua News Agency as reported by Voice of America. If successful, China would become only the third country on Earth to operate a permanent space station on orbit (just eight years ago, the country became the third nation to successfully send an astronaut into space).