China to launch next manned space mission in 2013
Beijing: China plans to launch another manned spacecraft including a woman astronaut on board in June next year for a fortnight-long mission to conduct experiments in space station being built to rival Russian Mir station.
Like in the Shenzhou-9 mission, the crew Shenzhou-10 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," state-run China Radio International quoted him as saying.
The selection for the crew will begin in early 2013.
Shenzhou-10 will take supplies for Tiangong-1, currently orbiting the earth.
The experiments include 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, an air force pilot 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.
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.
China plans to build its own space station in around 2020 by which Mir is scheduled to be scrapped.