China has taken the first steps towards building a permanent manned space station, with two of its robotic spacecraft successfully docking in orbit yesterday. Following a two-day orbital chase, China's Shenzhou 8 spacecraft was successfully bound to a prototype space lab dubbed Tiangong 1, testing both the concepts and technologies developed by the country's fledgling space program. Having been remotely maneuvered to within 30 miles of its target the Shenzou 8 craft took control and docked autonomously, using sensors to correctly line itself up and engage with the science module. The pairing is planned to be tested again while in orbit, with the craft set to release and re-dock itself in a couple of weeks before returning to Earth.
China have long-held ambitions towards space exploration, with a target to build a permanent space station by 2020. For a closer look at the docking, take a look at the video below — skip ahead to about 4 minutes to see the moment of truth.