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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
ADVERTISEMENT