China to Launch Manned Spaceship in 2013

As Shenzhou 9 made a triumphant return earlier this year,  China is planning to launch Shenzhou 10 in 2013, Reuters reports:

The crew could include one female and two male astronauts, who are scheduled to enter the Tiangong 1 space lab module, according to Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s manned space programme.

Niu made the remarks on the sidelines of the Communist Party congress which is meeting to choose a new leadership.

The new plan follows the successful flight of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which returned to Earth in late June, that put China’s first woman in space and completed a manned docking test critical to Beijing’s space station plan.

Aside from sending more astronauts to space, CDT previously reported on China’s upcoming moon probe landing, which is also planned to launch in 2013. Xinhua adds, Niu also commented that the success of the upcoming launch could enable China to build its own space station and lab:

“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,” he said.

In the coming mission, Shenzhou-10 will offer ferrying services of personnel and supplies for Tiangong-1, further testing the astronauts’ abilities of working and living in space, as well as the functions of the lab module, he said.

“The selection for the crew will begin in early 2013,” he said.

China plans to build its own space station in around 2020.

While China plans its future space explorations, many have been wondering if China will surpass America in space. According to Forbes, the United States still has one advantage in the space industry:

If successful, this mission will be another stepping stone for the Chinese space program in its quest to build a fully operating space station by the early 2020′s. This goal is partially motivated by the fact that China is excluded from the International Space Station thanks to American embargoes.

Indeed, as David Axe points out in an article in Pacific Standard last month, because of America’s embargoes, China has basically had to develop its own space program and aerospace industry from the ground up. While that has, in some ways, kept it well behind American accomplishments – it’s also enabled it to develop a native industry capable of its own breakthroughs.

One edge that the United States does have in its space program, though, is its embrace of the private space industry. Thanks to initiatives that began in the Bush Administration and have been accelerated under the Obama Administration, there are now several commercial space companies making extraordinary progress in the United States. In particular, there’s SpaceX, which has now launched two successful docking missions of the International Space Station.

Still, that’s not to discount the extraordinary progress that the Chinese have made in the past few decades in their aspirations towards a manned presence in outer space. It’s too bad we aren’t able to cooperate in building a future in space together.

Read more about China’s space program, via CDT.

November 11, 2012 8:21 AM
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