China looking to manned space missions

Nov. 4, 2011 at 4:19 PM
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BEIJING, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- In the coming year, China's space program plans to repeat its successful docking exercise with astronauts as part of the mission, a program spokeswoman said.

China further plans to reach the moon and to launch its own space station by 2020 -- about the time the International Space Station is scheduled to be retired, The New York Times reported.

The Thursday morning accomplishment is particularly impressive because although the United States and Russia refined docking in space in the 1960s, Chinese scientists performed the feat largely on their own, said Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program. Most of the components and instruments used for the exercise were domestically produced.

"This makes China one of the few countries in the world that can independently research and develop docking mechanisms," Wu said, adding the achievement was "a historic breakthrough for our country and a huge technical leap forward."

The U.S. Congress imposed sanctions against China, limiting cooperation between U.S. and Chinese aeronautical engineers in 1989 after Beijing's violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators. The move barred Chinese scientists from U.S. space conferences and banned China from using the International Space Station.

China has largely relied on its own space engineers and heavy government funding to make it to space.

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