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Backgrounder: China's voyage to space: from Shenzhou-1 to Tiangong-1

(Xinhua)

13:20, October 26, 2011

BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- China is scheduled to heave its first space laboratory module Tiangong-1 skyward Thursday evening, a major step closer to its first space station since it started its manned space program in 1992.

The 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1, with a length of 10.4 meters and maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, is scheduled to be launched by the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket between 13:16 and 13:31 GMT at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

China will conduct its first space docking test after the launch of the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft, which is scheduled in November.

The main task of the Tiangong-1 flight is to experiment in rendezvous and docking between spacecraft and accumulate experience for developing a space station.

It's been 12 years since the program's first mission took place in 1999 via the launch of the Shenzhou-1.

The following are some facts about China's manned space program.

Shenzhou-1:

Launch time: 6:30 a.m., Nov. 20, 1999

Landing time: 3:41 a.m., Nov. 21, 1999

The main task was to examine the performance and reliability of the launcher and verify key technologies relating to capsule connection and separation, heat prevention, control, and landing.

Shenzhou-2:

Launch time: 1:00:03 a.m., Jan. 10, 2001

Landing time: 7:22 p.m., Jan. 16, 2001

Shenzhou-2 was the first formal unmanned spaceship. The launch was conducted in a condition required for a manned spacecraft. It carried out experiments in the fields of space life science, space material, space astronomy and space physics under conditions of microgravity.

Shenzhou-3:

Launch time: 10:15 p.m., March 25, 2002

Landing time: 4:51 a.m., April 1, 2002

The module carried human physical monitoring sensors and

"dummy astronauts." It was also equipped with the escape and emergency rescue functions.

Shenzhou-4:

Launch time: 12:40 a.m., Dec. 30, 2002

Landing time: 7:16 p.m., Jan. 5, 2003

The module was launched at a temperature of minus 29 degrees Celsius. Excessive harmful gas, found in the previous three crafts, was reduced to a safe level in the fourth. Radiation-proof facilities and automatic and manual emergency rescue systems were installed on the spacecraft.

Shenzhou-5:

Launch time: 9:00 a.m., Oct. 15, 2003

Landing time: 6:23 a.m., Oct. 16, 2003

The launch of the spacecraft was the first manned mission, which realized the nation's thousand-year dream of manned space flight and was a new milestone for China's space program.

The craft carried astronaut Yang Liwei, 38.

Shenzhou-6:

Launch time: 9:00 a.m., Oct. 12, 2005

Landing time: 4:33 a.m., Oct. 17, 2005

It was China's second manned spaceflight, with astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng aboard.

The mission aimed to master the technology relating to a "multi-person and multi-day" orbital flight, as well as to carry out manned space-related scientific experiments and medical experiments.

Shenzhou-7:

Launch time: 9:10 p.m., Sept. 25, 2008

Landing time: 5:37 p.m., Sept. 28, 2008

China carried out a historic first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut. Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng were onboard.

Zhai went out of the cabin at 4:34 p.m. of Sept. 27, 43 hours after the launch of the craft, and remained outside the craft for 19 minutes and 35 seconds. China became the third country in the world able to conduct extravehicular activity in space, following the Soviet Union and the United States.

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