China‘s space agency stated on Saturday that it plans to launch astronauts later in June, in order to perform the country’s first space docking.
The New York Times reports that the announcement is the latest in the country’s ambitious space exploration plan. The agency stated that the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft will be docking with the Tiangong 1 orbital model “sometimes in mid-June.”
Zee News reports that China had a successful unmanned space docking last year, and that they are planning to have a space lab that rivals that of Russia’s, which is currently being jointly operated with the United States. An unidentified spokesperson noted that the final preparations for the flight are running smoothly and that the astronauts selected have completed all of their training and are in perfect mental and physical condition.
It is likely that China will deploy a woman cosmonaut, because two of the seven handpicked trainees are women. Another 45 astronauts, 15 women and 30 men, have been selected as back ups from a pool of fighter pilots. According to Zee News, a Space International magazine under the China Academy of Space Technology said in March this year that the women who were selected have all been married and given birth naturally, something that the space agency believes ensures their body and mental condition are mature enough.
Pang Zhihao, deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine, stated that female astronauts tend to be, “keen and sensitive with better communication skills than their male counterparts.”
The New York Times reports that the spacecraft and its carrier rocket were moved to the launch platform on Saturday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, which is a launching complex in the Gobi Desert in northwest China.