China's space programme growing in ambition

China's space programme growing in ambition

The first unmanned space laboratory, Tiangong-1, will be launched in 2011, after which there would be the first unmanned docking with the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut to visit space in 2003, was quoted as saying by the People's Daily.
Manned spacecraft Shenzhou-9 and unmanned Shenzhou-10 will be launched in 2012, and by 2020, China will launch its first orbital space station, he said.

Ye Peijian, commander-in-chief of the lunar-probe programme, said an orbit of the moon can be expected by 2020. China may launch its first manned moon landing in 2025, a probe to Mars by 2013 and to Venus by 2015.

Earlier, Wu Weiren, chief engineer of the lunar exploration programme, said work on the lunar orbiter had entered the pre-launch testing stage and it would make its first trial flight before the end of the year.The lunar programme is named "Chang'e" after a Chinese goddess who took a magic elixir and flew to the moon.

Analysts, however, dismissed international concerns that China is engaging in a space arms race, stressing that the missions are for scientific purposes and for the benefit of mankind.

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