China talks of progress in space program

Nov. 1, 2012 at 5:13 PM

CHANGSHA, China, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Chinese astronauts are training in manual space docking techniques to prepare for manned space missions next year, the program's head says.

Zhou Jianping, the program's chief designer and China's first astronaut, said preparations for missions following Shenzhou-9, China's first manned mission launched in June, were under way.

China is planning missions to return astronauts to the Tiangong-1 target module to live and work to "further verify the technologies safeguarding astronauts' lives in space, mankind's working capabilities in space and some key technologies for China's planned space station," Zhou said at a manned space flight academic conference in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan province.

Tiangong-1, sent into space in September 2011, docked with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft in November of that year and with the manned Shenzhou-9 in June of this year.

China plans to build its own space station by 2020, the country's official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhou as saying.

"Our goal is to build an international-level space station that meets the demands of scientific experiments and technological tests," Zhou told the conference.

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