China to launch module for space rendezvous | News | DW | 09.06.2012
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China to launch module for space rendezvous

China is planning to put three people into space later this month to dock with a module already in orbit. Among the crew may be the first female Chinese space traveller.

China has announced it will put astronauts into orbit later this month when it launches the module Shenzhou 9. The crew may include China's first female space traveller, according to Chinese government news agency Xinhua.

The Shenzhou 9 will dock onto the Tiangong 1 module which was launched last year. The two crews will live together. The Chinese government has not specified how long the mission will last.

On Saturday, a rocket carrying the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft was moved to a launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the dry northwest of the country to prepare for takeoff, which is expected to take place mid-June.

This is the latest step that will bring China closer to its goal of owning a space station by the year 2020. The Chinese station will be considerably smaller than the 16-nation International Space Station (ISS). Beijing started its own space station program after being turned away from the ISS.

An unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft returned to Earth in November after completing two space dockings with Tiangong-1 in the nation's first ever hard-to-master "space kiss," bringing together two vessels in orbit at high speed.

sb/jm (AP, AFP)