China to launch Shenzhou-10, second woman to space

By Kristen Butler,   |   Updated June 10, 2013 at 6:43 PM
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China's Shenzhou-10 is set to launch on Tuesday at 5:38 a.m. ET from the the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, marking a decade of Chinese manned spaceflight.

The mission will have three crew; Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, according to officials from China Manned Space Engineering.

Shenzhou-10, meaning "Divine Vessel," will be in orbit for 15 days, China's longest mission yet. The craft is to conduct two docking tests with the Chinese space lab module Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace" -- one automatic and the other manual.

Wang is the second female astronaut in China's manned space program, and the first one born in the 1980s. The 33-year-old grew up on a farm and served as a transporter pilot before being selected as an astronaut in 2010.

The Shenzhou-9 mission, launched in June last year, included China's first woman astronaut, Liu Yang, who became a national celebrity.

Nie, 48, will command the mission -- his second following a flight aboard the Shenzhou-6 spacecraft launched in 2005.

In addition to medical and technical tests, Wang will give a lecture from orbit to a group of students on the ground, which will be broadcast live.

Although China still lags behind the U.S. and Russia -- completing its first manned mission in 2003 -- Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space program as fitting for a rising global power.

The Tiangong-1 space lab has been in orbit for just under two years. Officials say the country plans to have a fully functional space station in orbit by 2020, and they plan to land China's first exploratory craft on the moon this year.

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