BEIJING — Chinese officials have declared complete success for the Shenzhou 8 mission of their manned space program, after the capsule — designed for human transportation but unmanned on this occasion — returned to Earth on Nov. 17.
The mission’s chief objective was to show that Shenzhou 8 could dock with the Tiangong 1 orbital laboratory, which was also unmanned. The procedure was executed twice.
The next two missions in the Chinese manned space program, Shenzhou 9 and 10, are due next year. At least one of them should be manned. Shenzhou 8 landed in western China.
Official media say China has spent only 35 billion yuan ($5.4 billion) on its manned space program since it began in 1992. Chinese fiscal data is quite opaque, however; the data cannot be verified. The program’s long-run objective is to launch a space station around 2020.
More immediately, it is serving as a source of patriotic propaganda for the government, with state media trumpeting the achievements of Shenzhou 8 and playing up the benefits of space activities for the lives of ordinary people.