China on 16 June 2012 launched its fourth human spaceflight Shenzhou-9 from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in north-western Gansu state. The 30.3 feet long and 9.1 feet diameter, Shenzhou -9 spacecraft will conduct the first manned docking mission and set the foundation for Chinese plans to build a space station by 2020.
Shenzhou-9 is expected to take at least 20 days to complete its space mission. In the course of the mission the crew will accomplish automated docking procedure followed by scientific experiments, technical tests and physical exercises conducted in the space lab. The crew will conduct manual docking with the Tiangong-1 or heavenly palace space laboratory module, which has been orbiting the earth since 29 September 2011.
China, launched its manned space programme in year 1999 with the launch of Shenzhou-1 with no crew on board. In 2001, Shenzhou-2 was blasted off with small animals aboard, and in 2003, China launched its first manned space craft. Since then, it has completed a space walk in 2008 and an unmanned docking between a module and rocket in 2011. The launch of Shenzhou-9 is a testimony to China’s determination to develop its technological competence vis-a-vis United States and Russia.
China sent its First woman Astronaut Liu Yang into Space
Shenzhou-9 space mission also holds significance as its crew members comprise three astronauts including China’s first woman astronaut Liu Yang. Yang, a cargo pilot in the People's Liberation Army air force, is the first Chinese female astronaut, who has been sent on the space mission. The other two astronauts on the mission include People's Liberation Army (PLA) pilots, Liu Wang and Jing Haipeng, who after this mission became China's first astronaut to travel into space twice.
Edit : China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday, ending a mission that put the country's first woman in space, and completed a manned docking test critical to its goal of building a space station by 2020.