However, some wondered why China was spending so much money exploring space when it was still a developing country with a plethora of more pressing issues, from food safety and pollution to the prevalence of workplace fire disasters.
“Why don’t they spend this money solving China’s real problems instead of wasting it like this?” wrote one user on China’s popular Twitter-like service, Sina Weibo.
China’s space program has come a long way since late leader Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China in 1949, lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space.
But China is still far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the United States and Russia.
Rendezvous and docking techniques such as those which China is only testing now were mastered by the United States and the former Soviet Union decades ago, and the 10.5 meter-long Tiangong 1 is a trial module, not a fully fledged space station.
Still, the Shenzhou 10 mission will be the latest show of China’s growing prowess in space and comes while budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back U.S. manned space launches.
China also plans an unmanned moon landing and deployment of a moon rover. Scientists have raised the possibility of sending a man to the moon, but not before 2020.
While Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, a Pentagon report last month highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.
Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007.