China Readies Its Fifth Manned Space Launch
October 28, 2012 • 11:04PM

The next manned space mission will lift off next year, as planned, China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei, told a news conference yesterday in Shanghai. He is visiting that city for the opening of an aerospace and aviation exhibition, marking the 20th anniversary of the launch of China's manned space program. A main attraction at the exhibition, is the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou-4 spacecraft.

Addressing the often-cited slow pace of China's manned program, taking on one incremental step at a time, Yang said, "One success doesn't mean success every time. We would like to have more practice and improve the quality" of the technology. He said that more scientific experiments will be conducted on the next, Shenzhou-10 mission, and new life support and environmental control techniques will be tested. These are necessary for the long stay-times the Chinese plan for their future space station.

At the International Astronautical Congress earlier this month in Naples, Dr. Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's manned space engineering office, reported that following Shenzhou-10, the 2014-2016 timeframe will see the deployment of the next station proto-module, Tiangong-2, which will demonstrate the transfer of propellants in orbit. It will be visited by astronauts intermittently once or twice a year, in a man-tended mode. The 2020 station, he said, would include two experiement modules, and would be expandable, to accomodate unmanned cargo ships, which China is developing.

At the conference, China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, noted (speaking in English) that the meeting has given her the opportunity to "meet foreign astronauts." She added that she is "looking forward to cooperation with other astronauts and cosmonauts." Asked if she thought about the crew that was aboard the International Space Station while she was in space, she replied, "We sent our greetings to them during the mission."