Hu Jintao talks with Chinese astronauts from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. Photo credit: Xinhua | Ma Zhancheng.
State media reports that the Chinese space agency has announced plans to launch its next manned space mission, potentially as early as June next year.
A senior official expects the three-person crew to include at least one woman. Liu Yang became China’s first female astronaut when she took off in the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft in June of this year.
In 2003, China became only the third country to ever independently send a person into space, after the US and Russia. Other countries have had citizens leave the Earth, but only by hitching a ride on foreign rockets.
Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s manned space programme, says plans are in place for a launch in June 2013, with back-up launch windows identified in July or August.
China has plans to develop an orbiting space station independent of the International Space Station by 2020, and also to send a manned mission to the moon.