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China ramps space program with planned astronaut launch

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2013

China took another step on Monday toward its goal of dominating space and announced three astronauts will be launched this month with a mission to dock with an experimental module.

The announcement comes at a time when the United States has scaled back its space program, opening the doors to other nations to assume the global leadership role in exploration.

China said the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft is now in it is "final stage of preparations" to launch "in the middle of June," the nation's state-run media, Xinhua, reported. Plans are for the spacecraft to dock with the Tiangong-1 space laboratory — an important step toward the construction of a full space station facility that can allow for astronauts to stay for long period, Agence France-Presse reported.

So far, China is behind the United States and Russia in space technology. But its aim is to unseat America, and Communist Party officials say they will see a man land on the moon and they will have a station that orbits Earth before 2020, AFP said.

China has already sent a human into space — in 2003 — but has been ramping up its program since. The country spends billions now on space technology and research and development, with the aim at being the global leader and taking advantage of America's waning interest and exploration, AFP reported.

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