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China Announces Plans to Send Three Astronauts Into Space June 11

Jun 10, 2013 01:58 PM EDT
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Wang Yaping
Chinese astronaut Wang Yaping adjusts her helmet during a training at Beijing Aerospace City in Beijing, May 8, 2013. China will launch its next manned space flight on June 11, carrying three astronauts on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab, the National Space Administration said, in the latest step towards the development of a space station. Picture taken May 8, 2013.
(Photo : Reuters)

China announced plans Monday to launch a manned spacecraft Tuesday evening Beijing time, according to Xinhua, the official press agency of the nation’s government.

Named Shenzhou-10, the space vehicle will transport three astronauts into space, Wu Ping, China’s manned space program spokeswoman, said in a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

One of the astronauts, Wang Yaping, is the second female astronaut in China’s manned space mission and the first born in the 1980s.

The other astronauts planned to board the spacecraft are Zhang Xiaogung and Nie Haisheng.

The spacecraft is planned to complete a 15-day journey before going through two docking tests with the orbiting space lab module Tiangong-1, one automatic and the other manual.

During the trip, the astronauts will run medical and technical tests as well as conduct a lecture to a group of students on the ground inside the Tiangong-1.

Shenzhou-10 will be powered by a Long March-2F carrier rocket, which has been fueled and ready to go since Monday afternoon.

“The launch and ground and control systems are ready,” Wu said. “Astronauts are in good and stable condition.”

The spokeswoman further explained that food for astronauts as well as waste processing facilities will be improved.

Overall, the mission aims to further test technologies of docking and supporting astronauts’ stay in space in addition to trying new technologies related to the construction of China's own space station, she explained.

The trip will be China’s fifth manned space mission since 2003 and marks China's growing presence in the space community, even as budget cuts have forced NASA to pay the Russian Space Agency as much as $70 million per seat aboard their spacecraft designed to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

"China is in space for the long haul," Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on the Chinese space program at the U.S. Naval War College told the Canadian news source CBC. "The U.S. ignoring that and refusing to work with China will neither stop them nor slow them down."

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