China is aiming to launch its next manned space mission, the Shenzhou-10, with three crew members, as early as June 2013,said Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the manned space program on China National Radio in an interview Friday. Niu, speaking on the sidelines of China's 18th Communist Party Congress that kicked off Thursday in Beijing, said officials had identified a back-up launch window for July or August. He said one of the three astronauts would likely be a woman.
The last manned mission to the Moon was accomplished by the United States in 1972. Beijing has said it will also attempt to land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time in the second half of 2013 and transmit back a survey of the lunar surface. China sees its space program as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation. The country sent its first man into space in 2003. It completed a space walk in 2008 and an unmanned docking between a module and rocket last year.
The Daily Galaxy via AFP and Reuters