Skip to main content

China hails sea and space exploits

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
June 25, 2012 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese spacecraft makes first manual docking
  • On same day, deep-sea dive record is set by manned sub
  • Both feats seen as source of pride for China as leaders seek to bolster support

Hong Kong (CNN) -- From earthly orbit to the deepest reaches of the Pacific Ocean, China has notched up two more firsts for the country's ambitious sea and space exploration programs.

On Sunday, the three Chinese astronauts on board the Shenzhou-9 manually docked their spacecraft to the Tiangong 1, an orbiting space lab.

On the same day, a Chinese manned submersible vehicle set a deep-diving record when it descended 7,020 meters into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

The three men on board the sub -- dubbed oceanauts in China -- sent greetings to the three astronauts on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

China sends woman into space
China makes space history
China to launch major space mission

"We wish for a great success of the manual docking and brilliant achievements in China's manned space and manned deep-sea dive causes," Xinhua quoted Ye Cong, Li Kaizhou and Yang Bo as saying.

China sends first woman into space

Both endeavors have been a source of pride for China and could help bolster support for the Chinese Communist Party as it undergoes a once-in-a-decade leadership transition later this year and handles the fall-out from the demise of former politician Bo Xilai.

"Scientific achievements like this allow the Party to again remind the population of what has been achieved under their leadership," said Dean Cheng, a research follow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"It buys credibility and justification for their continued rule, even as scandals like Bo Xilai eat away at their authority.

"I would expect additional such displays in the coming months, especially if reports of a troubled succession are correct."

Mastering the technique of joining spacecraft together manually is also seen as an essential step toward China's goal of building a space station in 2020.

Until now, the docking had been done by remote control from the ground.

Local media reported that China also plans to start building a deep-sea station to accompany its march into space.

The three-man sub Jiaolong, named after a mythical sea dragon, worked for three hours on the sea floor, collecting water samples, sediments and placing markers at the bottom of the sea.

Xinhua said the 11-hour dive "enabled China to join the ranks of deep-sea faring countries" like the US, Japan, France and Russia.

Cheng said that the ability to undertake such deep-sea dives also had commercial applications and would help China drill for oil and undertake deep-sea mining.

Will China overtake America in space?

China has been funding oceanographic research for more than a decade after it was added to the country's 9th Five Year Plan in 1996, he added.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for China's manned space missions said the program, which began in 1992, would cost a total of almost 40 billion yuan (US$6.27 billion).

"These programs are emblematic of sustained Chinese investments in the human capital and infrastructure of science," said Cheng.

"This should be a warning call to the U.S. and Western Europe that their traditional dominance in science is in jeopardy."

But some Chinese internet users, while lauding the achievements, questioned whether these exploits were the wisest use of China's new-found wealth.

"Diving into the sea and flying out to space. China now can do them both," said one user of the Twitter-like portal Sina Weibo.

"It marks the development of technology and we are proud of it. But can the government care more about its people's well-being too?"

Corinna Liu in Hong Kong contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT