Today, China is a lot closer to completing their suborbital space station plans: the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft has automatically rendezvoused and docked with the space lab Tiangong-1. It's the third space agency ever to achieve achieve this feat.

The first two were the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency. The Chinese space agency, the docking operation was flawless.

This is not a small feat. First, it demonstrates that they could perform a crucial operation required to establish a space base. But even more importantly, orbital rendezvous and docking is indispensable to launch missions to the Moon and Mars. This shows that China can handle this must-have requirement.

Shenzhou 8 will remain docked for 12 more days to then undock and dock again. It will return to Earth on November 17. Following this operation, the manned Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 will dock with Tiangong-1 in 2012. These missions will perform manual docking operations. [BBC News]