February 28, 2013
China Launching Shenzhou-10 This Summer
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
According to Xinhua news agency, China's space program said in a statement on Thursday it will be launching a new spacecraft, along with three astronauts, this summer.
The statement said the Chinese astronauts will be boarding the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft between June and August this year. The new mission will mark the first formal application of the manned space transportation system.
China launched its own orbiting laboratory, Tiangong-1, back in September 2011. In November of the same year, Tiangong-1 docked with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft, and then later with Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft in June 2012.
The new mission will involve further assessment of the performance of the docking system, as well as looking into the capabilities to support life and work. The Chinese space agency said it will be looking into astronauts' abilities to adapt to the environment in the space module, in addition to tests on repairing orbiting spacecraft.
China said it has completed general assembly on Shenzhou-10, and all tests have been completed on its carrier rocket, a modified model of the Long March-2F.
According to a report back in November 2012, China's astronaut crew could include one woman and two men. China launched its first female astronaut to space last June. Female astronaut Liu Yang boarded the Shenzhou-9 capsule along with two other men at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert.
Two of the astronauts lived and worked inside the Tiangong 1 module, while the other stayed inside the capsule to deal with unexpected emergencies. During this mission, the astronauts performed a manual docking of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to the orbiting laboratory module.
China is just one of three nations that have launched a manned spacecraft on their own, and it announced plans last year to become the second nation to place a man on the moon. The nation's space agency announced they were working on plans to land a man on the moon, adding they would attempt to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface in the second half of 2013.
The proposed 2013 lunar mission, Chang'e 3, would involve a spacecraft capable of carrying out surveys on the surface of the moon. Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China´s lunar exploration program, said the mission includes a lander and a rover that can carry out exploration on our closest celestial neighbor.