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China to invite foreign officials, experts to Shenzhou-8 spacecraft launch


08:38, October 31, 2011

JIUQUAN, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- China will invite foreign officials and experts to observe the launch of the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest Gobi desert, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program said Sunday.

Wu Ping, who is heading the science and technology planning bureau under the office of China's manned space program, said that senior figures from the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center would be invited to attend the launch, scheduled for early November.

International exchanges and cooperation are among the key tasks of the country's manned space program, Wu said.

During the launch of Shenzhou-7 in September 2008, Russian aerospace experts were invited to the launch center to observe the mission, which culminated in China's first-ever space walk, by astronaut Zhai Zhigang.

Shenzhou-8 is expected to perform China's first-ever space rendezvous and docking when it joins up with Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, a space lab module sent into space in late September.

The docking technologies are believed to be crucial for China's ambition to build a permanent manned space station around 2020.

Wu said China's manned space program, which has been progressing steadily, will demonstrate the country's comprehensive power and enhance the cohesiveness and national pride of its people.

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