China’s space endeavours have gathered steady momentum over the last few years and as per a report by the China Daily, it appears that the country will perform their first manned space docking mission by mid- June.
Manned space launch planned for this month
As per an announcement by an anonymous spokesperson, China Daily reports stating, “By 10:30 am on Saturday, the spacecraft and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, had been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China, signaling the preparation work for the mission has entered the last stage. Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the manned space program, said at the launch center on Saturday that the mission will be “a significant step in China's space history”, because the spacecraft will send astronauts into a space lab for the first time, instead of just carrying them to circle the Earth in previous three manned missions.”
Over the next few days, a series of tests will be conducted on the ground systems, spacecraft and rocket as well as on the selected astronauts. Speaking on the safety of the astronauts, Zhang Yonghua, Deputy Chief Designer of the launch center system stated that the air conditioning and firefighting systems have been improved in the launching tower to ensure their safety.
A spokesperson commenting on the launch said that the spacecraft, the Shenzhou IX and its carrier rocket had been delivered in April 2012 to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The spokesperson said that the Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Palace-1, was lowered to the docking orbit in early June and is now orbiting normally. As for the astronauts embarking on the mission, their physical and mental conditions are good and their final preparations are going on without any glitches. Deputy Commander-in-Chief of China’s manned space program, Niu Hongguang said that the crew may include female astronauts. However, the final selection would be decided on conditions closer to the launch date. In respect to this mission, the report states, “It is a regular practice for China's space program to name the crew for a specific mission until only a couple of days before the mission kicks off. China picked two women and five men from a few thousands of candidates to become the second batch of seven astronaut trainees in 2010. Both women were former fighter jet pilots.”
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