September 23, 2009 11:20
China aims to build a manned space station with its own technology by 2020, the next step toward becoming a space power and a feat only the U.S. and Russia have accomplished so far.
Chinese media on Tuesday reported that Wang Yongzhi, the project's chief designer and a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, announced the plan at a conference on 60 years of Chinese space technology on Monday.
"We have submitted the plan to the central government and we are waiting for final approval," Wang said.
China has been accumulating the basic technology needed to build a space station. It launched its first manned spacecraft in October 2005, the Shenzhou VI, whose two crew members successfully stayed in orbit for five days and four nights. In September last year it conducted its first spacewalk during the flight of the Shenzhou VII.
For the next ten years or so China will focus on developing technologies for docking and long-tern voyages in low orbit and building a space laboratory.
Wang said the station will be launched in 2018 and the finishing touches done in space, with an aim toward completing it by 2022. Once the station is finished it will accommodate two to three astronauts for long-term stays as they carry out scientific experiments and measure the Earth, he said.
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