While NASA is busy trying to figure out which programs it will have to delay or kill if federal spending is sequestered, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced, today, that its next orbital manned mission, Shenzhou-10, will launch between June and August this year.
Similar to last year's Shenzhou-9 mission, this next will carry three crew members, and dock with the orbiting Tiangong-1 module. This mission will continue to extend the testing of crew life-support systems, docking, and the adaptation of the crew to weightlessness, which are all precursors to long-term space station missions.
Chinese media report that CNSA plans that, for the first time, ``astronauts will give science lectures to teenaged audiences back on Earth.'' The CNSA statement also announces that tests will be conducted on repairing orbiting spacecraft. This will be China's fifth manned space mission and may, like the last one, include a female astronaut.
This next phase will also include deployment of an unmanned cargo supply ship, to dock with Tiangong-1, similar to the unmanned Russian Progress vehicles which service the International Space Station. After the Shenzhou-10 mission, the plan is to launch a second, similar-sized but more sophisticated Tiangong-2 module, which will continue to develop the capabilities China will need for long-duration missions in a full-sized space station, planned for early in the next decade.
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