China to launch two unmanned space modules

Updated: 2011-04-29 22:04


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BEIJING - China is satisfied with preparatory work completed thus far for the launching of two unmanned space modules, the Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8, in the second half of this year, said deputy head of China's Manned Space Engineering Office Yang Liwei on Friday.

The two space modules will participate in the first space docking maneuver ever conducted by Chinese astronauts, said Yang.

More than 50 reporters from 33 foreign media organs visited the center on Friday to hear his remarks.

The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1", is expected to dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. During its two-year lifespan, the Tiangong-1 will also dock with other two Shenzhou spacecraft, the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, which will be launched in 2012.

Space docking is widely recognized as a key technique used in the construction of space stations.

China will have its own space station around 2020, Yang said.

A 21-member astronaut team, including two females, is currently undergoing training for the docking procedure.

"If things go well, the team's female astronauts are expected to conduct a manned space mission in the future," said Fei Junlong, head of the team.

Yang and Fei were China's first men in space, and were sent there in 2003 and 2005, respectively.


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