China will launch three astronauts into space this month to dock with an experimental space-module, state-media said Monday, marking the latest step towards the country’s aim of building a space station.
The Shenzhou-10 spacecraft has entered the “final stage of preparations,” for a launch “in the middle of June,” China’s official Xinhua news agency said, citing a spokesperson for the country’s manned space program.
The craft will dock with the Tiangong-1 space-laboratory, Xinhua said, making the mission a crucial step on the way to China’s goal of building a full space station capable of housing astronauts for extended periods.
Astronauts on board will “teach a lesson to a group of students via a video feed” while in orbit, after they launch from a base in northwest China, Xinhua said.
China’s space capabilities lag behind those of the US and Russia, but it has ambitious plans for its space program, including plans to land a man on the moon and build a station orbiting earth by 2020, according to an official white paper.
China first sent a human into space in 2003. The 2012 Shenzhou-9 launch became China’s longest-ever space mission and was notable for including the nation’s first woman astronaut among its three-member crew.
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