China's Latest Manned Space Mission to Launch This Month
Created: 2013-06-03 10:20 EST
Shenzhou 10, China's fifth-manned spacecraft, was transferred to its launch pad on Monday (June 3) in preparation for its mid-June launch, carrying three astronauts to an experimental space module, state media reported.
Both the ship and its Long-March 2-F rocket were moved to a remote site in the Gobi desert where a series of preparatory tests will be carried out.
Rendezvous and docking exercises between the two vessels are an important hurdle in China's efforts to acquire the technological and logistical skills to run a full space lab that can house astronauts for long periods.
The Shenzhou-10 will be China's fifth manned space mission since 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei became the country's first person in orbit.
China is still far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the United States and Russia. The Tiangong 1 is a trial module, not the building block of a space station.
This summer's mission will be the latest show of China's growing prowess in space and comes while budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back U.S. manned space launches.
China also plans an unmanned moon landing and deployment of a moon rover. Scientists have raised the possibility of sending a man to the moon, but not before 2020.