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
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0229 GMT (1029 HKT)
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
The massive street rallies that have swept Hong Kong present a major dilemma for China's leadership.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0707 GMT (1507 HKT)
Chinese wine drinkers need to develop a taste for the cheap stuff, not just premium red wines like Lafite.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
ADVERTISEMENT