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China to attempt first space rendezvous
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) April 29, 2011

China will attempt its first space docking between two unmanned vehicles this year, the first step in efforts to build a Chinese space station, a senior official said Friday.

Yang Liwei detailed the next stages of China's human spaceflight programme during a press visit to Space City in Beijing, a research and training centre normally closed to the public.

"Our next goal is to realise a space docking of two vehicles during the second half of 2011," said Yang, whose journey into space in 2003 made him the first Chinese astronaut.

The manoeuvre will involve the Tiangong 1 module and the Shenzhou 8 rocket, said Yang, confirming an announcement made last October.

Tiangong means "Celestial Palace" and the eight-tonne orbiter is on a two-year mission that will see it rendezvous in 2012 with the Shenzhou 9 and 10 rockets, both of which will have astronauts on board.

Before 2016, China will launch a space laboratory and, Yang said, "around 2020, we plan to realise the construction of a space station in orbit for long-term stays in space".

China's space station will be made up of a core module, two laboratories, a cargo ship and a manned rocket, with a total weight of 60 tonnes, compared with 137 tonnes for the Russian station Mir and 419 tonnes for the International Space Station (ISS), the China Daily reported this week.

"China would like to cooperate with other countries" on the peaceful use of space, said Yang, who holds the rank of major general in the Chinese army, which runs the country's manned space flight programme.

Asked about Chinese plans to send men to the moon, he said: "The Chinese have no specific lunar mission now," but added that such a project was under consideration.

"I really experienced the prestige that space can bring to a country," he said.


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Countdown begins for Chineses space station program
Beijing, China (XNA) Apr 27, 2011
Authorities in charge of the manned space program unveiled plans on Monday to build a 60-ton space station, made up of three capsules, and develop a cargo spaceship to transport supplies. The China Manned Space Engineering Office said at a news conference that it also wants the public to get involved by suggesting names for the space station, due to completed around 2020. According to docu ... read more

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