November 11, 2012
China Could Launch Next Shenzhou Manned Mission In June 2013
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
China's next manned space mission will involve a three-person crew and is currently scheduled to take place as early as next summer, according to various media reports that surfaced over the weekend.
Reuters, citing reports that originated with the Xinhua news agency, said officials are planning to launch the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft in the first half of June 2013.
Speaking at a meeting of the Communist Party, Niu Hongguang, the deputy commander-in-chief of China's manned space program, said the crew could include one woman and two men and would be transported to the Tiangong 1 space lab module, the news agency added.
Officials have also identified back-up launch windows in July and August, should the agency be unable to meet the targeted date in June, BBC News noted on Saturday.
If things go as scheduled, however, Shenzhou 10 will take off less than one year after its predecessor, Shenzhou 9, returned to Earth following China's first successful manual docking mission in space. It would also be the country's fifth manned space mission since 2003.
"The docking procedure was a major milestone in the country's ambitious space program that has a goal of building a space station by the end of the decade," the AFP explained, adding that Chinese officials have revealed they are "working towards landing a man on the moon."
No time frame for that proposed mission has been identified as of yet.
"Beijing has said it will also attempt to land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time in the second half of 2013 and transmit back a survey of the lunar surface," the French news agency added. "China sees its space program as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation."
Furthermore, the BBC said there has been some discussion of China becoming involved in the International Space Station (ISS) project. Such an occurrence is "considered unlikely," however, in light of "political tensions between Beijing" and the U.S. government, the British news agency added