Here in the U.S., it's easy to think of NASA and the astronauts aboard the ISS as the only real players in space exploration. And while our own history in space is a relatively long one, China is building their own space legacy as we speak.
Chinese astronaut Liu Yang recently completed her historic mission to China's new space station, Tiangong 1. There, she and her crew mates tested docking procedures and chatted with Chinese school children (who were still on Earth, of course).
While astronauts aboard the ISS frequently do the same sorts of things, the Chinese are new visitors in orbit. Watching their progress seems to hearken back to the glory days of the space race, when brave men and women were timidly stepping out into the Universe for the first time. All at once, it is a nostalgic and foreign thing to see three Chinese astronauts crammed into a tiny space capsule.
And with future US plans constantly under budgetary scrutiny, we could all do with a dose of nostalgia and wonder for that which lies beyond our own atmosphere. As Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's manned space program office stated recently, "for any country, for any people, a space program is indispensable." Check out the images below for a little dose of those grand, indispensable feelings which new space travel can inspire.