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Launch center prepares for new manned mission

Updated: 2013-06-04 01:41
By Xin Dingding ( China Daily)

China will launch a manned spacecraft in the middle of this month for its third space rendezvous and docking mission, a spokesperson said on Friday.

The spacecraft will send three astronauts to the Tiangong-1 space module, which has been orbiting Earth since 2011, and for the first time astronauts will give a science lecture from space to adolescents.

Launch center prepares for new manned mission

The Shenzhou X spacecraft and its rocket are moved into position at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province on Monday. Provided to China Daily

The unnamed spokesperson for China's manned space program said in a news release that the Shenzhou X spacecraft and its rocket were moved to the launch area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, a remote site in the Gobi desert, on Monday morning.

"This signals the launch of Shenzhou X has entered its final preparation stage," the spokesperson said.

In the next few days, the launch center will carry out the final check of the condition of the spaceship and the launch vehicle, before the Long March 2F rocket carrier blasts off with the spaceship on top, the spokesperson said.

Once in orbit, Shenzhou X will dock with the Tiangong-1 space module, which was moved to a lower orbit in May for the docking.

This docking mission will be the last of three planned experiments to master the technologies of space rendezvous and docking, which is crucial for China to build and run a space station around 2020.

Before this mission, China has carried out an unmanned docking mission between Shenzhou VIII and the module in 2011. Last June, three astronauts, including China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, carried out the first manned docking with the module.

The three astronauts onboard Shenzhou X are expected to include a female astronaut as in the last mission, Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of the manned space program, was quoted as saying in March.

Their names and other information remain unknown, as the list of names is not usually released until a few days before the mission.

But since Liu Yang has not participated in training for the Shenzhou X mission, the chance will likely fall on the only other female astronaut recruited by China.

Zhou said earlier this year that the three astronauts will stay in space for 15 days, two more days than the previous mission.

It will also be China's fifth manned space mission since 2003 when astronaut Yang Liwei became the country's first person in orbit. Before this mission, eight Chinese astronauts, including one woman, have gone into space.