China heading to infinity, and beyond.

Far out. China is planning a manned space flight, potentially with the first ever female Chinese astronaut aboard, within the next few weeks. Take that, NASA!

The CBC reports that the rocket is scheduled to launch this month:

“The three-member crew will dock with and live in the Tiangong 1 orbital module launched last year, Xinhua said. The government has not said how long the mission will last.

Xinhua cited Niu Hongguang, deputy commander in chief of the manned space program, as saying the crew “might include female astronauts.”

The government said in 2010 that two female air force pilots had joined the astronaut program but has disclosed no other details.”

This will be the country’s first manned space docking and, according to the New York Times, could be a signal that the government is no longer content to let the US lead in manned space exploration:

“Beijing announced last December a five-year plan for space exploration that includes launching a space lab and collecting samples from the moon by 2016. The government has previously vowed to reach the moon and launch its own manned space station by 2020.

The plan, released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, shows how Beijing intends to draw on its military and civilian resources to reach the goals. The People’s Liberation Army drives China’s space program, and civilian institutions such as universities and laboratories are subject to the military’S efforts.

China is considered a leader in the business of launching satellites, but analysts say the country is still years behind the United States in its space program. The Chinese government has relied on its own aerospace engineers and spent billions of dollars in recent years to build its space program. In 2003 the country carried out its first successful human spaceflight, and in 2008 Chinese astronauts took their first spacewalk.”

What do you think? Is manned space travel an important new arena for China, or should the country stick to satellites?

Read more about France, America, China and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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