Officials from China’s Manned Space Engineering Project have announced plans to launch a manned space station sometime around the year 2020, according to various media reports.
According to AFP news reports, space officials in the Asian nation released a statement on Wednesday confirming their intentions on sending a space laboratory into orbit within the next six years. The stellar lab would be used to study “key technology involved in a space station, such as living conditions for astronauts” in preparation for the launch of a cabin and a second laboratory approximately four years later. Those units would then be combined to form a fully-functional space station.
“The space station program will use existing technology, including the Shenzhou space vehicle and the Long March 2F launch rocket,” Reuters reporters said on Wednesday, citing reports from China’s Xinhua news agency. Furthermore, they noted that space agency officials “gave no details regarding the size of the planned labs,” but the wire service claimed that the facility would be “unlikely to rival the size” of the International Space Station (ISS).
The announcement comes just weeks after the China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched their second lunar exploration probe, the Chang’e-2 orbiter. That probe is scheduled to complete a six month mission in which it will come to within 10 miles of the moon’s service, testing technology that Beijing space officials hope will help them complete an unmanned lunar landing by 2013.
In 2003, China became the third country to successfully send a man into space on a craft developed within their own borders. Then, two years later, the CNSA sent a pair of men into orbit, and in September 2008, they became just the third country to complete a space walk outside of an orbiting craft. They also are eyeing a possible manned mission to the moon by 2017.
“These steps are all part of the nation’s ambitious space exploration program, which experts say it wants to put on a par with those of the United States and Russia,” AFP reporters wrote on Monday. “China sees the program as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the formerly poverty-stricken nation.”
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