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China makes final preparations for manned space flight

June 10, 2013

Historically, China has not earned as much attention for its space program as the United States or Russia. However, on June 11, China will launch its fifth manned space flight from the city of Jiquan in the Gansu province. This flight serves as the unofficial anniversary of China's first manned space mission, which took place 10 years ago. According to Xinhua, the flight is set to last for 15 days, and involve a number of different technical and medical tests. These will include a docking operation with the Tiangong-1 space lab, which has itself been orbiting the planet for 620 days. This event is likely to be a hot topic in China and elsewhere on various phone calls made with an international calling card.

The news source reports that the astronauts also plan to give a lecture to students on Earth about the effects of weightlessness and other issues. Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program, extolled the positive attributes of the lecture.

"Through this event, we hope to bring the space program closer to the younger generation, improve their understanding and attract their interests in our work," Wu told the source.

The crew for this latest flight was recently announced and is comprised of three current or past military and air force pilots. Perhaps most notable about this crew is the inclusion of Wang Yaping. According to Space.com, Wang is only the second Chinese woman ever to enter space. She has been training as an astronaut since 2010 and formerly served in the Chinese air force.

Of the crew, Nie Haisheng, a Chinese military pilot, is the only member to have previously been in space, as he served in the Shenzhou 6 flight of 2005. Former air force pilot Zhang Xiaoguang rounds out the mission staff.

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