CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- While it could be several years before another manned space mission launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, China will launch three Chinese astronauts aboard its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June from northwest China to perform the country's first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module according to China's state news agency Xinhua.
Xinhua reported that one of two female Chinese astronauts, Liu Yang or Wang Yaping, from the Chinese Air Force Wuhan Flight Unit, will join Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft docking mission. "They are selected as members of the first batch of female astronauts in China because of their excellent flight skills and psychological quality," Xinhua reports.
"The Shenzhou-9 will perform our country's first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module," Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the manned space program, said as he accompanied the spacecraft to the launch platform, "It means China's spacecraft will become a genuine manned shuttle tool between space and Earth. It can send human beings to space stations or space labs. This will be a significant step in China's manned space flight history," Zhou said.
In the next few days, scientists will conduct functional tests on the spacecraft and the rocket, as well as joint tests on selected astronauts, spacecraft, rocket and ground systems, according to the spokesperson.
The full story of China's first manned space docking mission reported in English by the Chinese news agency Xinhua can be found here.