- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2012

JIUQUAN, CHINA (AP) - China will launch three astronauts including a mother of one who flies transport planes to work on a space station for about a week, a major step in its goal of becoming only the third nation with a permanent base orbiting Earth.

Liu Yang and two male colleagues are expected to be launched Saturday in the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft that will dock with the bus-sized Tiangong 1 space module, 322 kilometers (200 miles) above the Earth.

State media say the mission will last about 10 days.

If successful, the mission will put China alongside the United States and Russia as the only countries to have independently maintained space stations. It already is in the exclusive three-nation club to have launched a spacecraft with astronauts on its own.

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