China to launch manned spaceship in June

(Nanowerk News) China plans to launch another manned spacecraft Shenzhou-10 in early June 2013, a lead space program official said on Saturday.
Like in the Shenzhou-9 mission, the crew might include two men astronauts and a woman, who are scheduled to enter the Tiangong-1 space lab module, Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China's manned space program, said on the sidelines of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
"They will stay in space for 15 days, operating both automated and manual space dockings with the target orbiter Tiangong-1, conducting scientific experiments in the lab module and giving science lectures to spectators on the Earth," he said.
In the coming mission, Shenzhou-10 will offer ferrying services of personnel and supplies for Tiangong-1, further testing the astronauts' abilities of working and living in space, as well as the functions of the lab module, he said.
"The success of this mission might enable China to construct a space lab and a space station," he said.
Tiangong-1 was sent into space in September 2011. It docked with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft last November and the manned Shenzhou-9 in June this year, verifying China's space docking capabilities.
Shenzhou-9 carried the first Chinese woman Liu Yang, together with two male crew mates, into outer space.
"After more than a year of operation in space, Tiangong-1 is still in good condition," Niu said.
"Tiangong-1, with a design life of two years, will likely remain in orbit for further operation after the space docking with Shenzhou-10," he said.
The launch rocket and spaceship have been assembled and are being tested, and astronauts are being trained, Niu said.
"The selection for the crew will begin in early 2013," he said.
China initiated the manned space program in 1992. It successfully sent Yang Liwei, the country's first astronaut, into orbit on Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in 2003.
Yang was followed by a two-man mission that carried Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng in 2005.
The trio of Shenzhou-7 astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng orbited the Earth for three days in 2008, and Zhai became the first Chinese to conduct extra-vehicular activities on Sept. 27, 2008.
China plans to build its own space station in around 2020.
"The space station is a state-level space experimental platform. We will make the best use of it to solve some problems concerning the country's scientific, technological development and people's livelihoods," Niu said.
Source: Xinhua