China’s docking achievement is important largely because of its symbolic and propaganda value, but tells us little about how close it is to matching American technological prowess. The first American space docking of this kind occurred in 1966 – a long-ago achievement that makes China’s docking seem of minor importance. Any future contest for the control of space will depend not on astronauts, but rather on the sophistication of rockets and satellites. China’s docking tells us little about how they currently compare to those of the United States.
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