China plans to accelerate its space development programme – an objective of the government - including constructing a large-scale space station by about 2020 and sending an unmanned lunar probe to the moon by 2013.
Aiming to use its space programme to locate resources on earth and improve its military technology, China also will carry out a spaceship docking test in 2011 in its expedited programme, officials responsible for space projects attending the National People's Congress and the People's Political Consultative Conference told the media in Beijing.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency and other sources, the government plans to follow the success of the Shenzhou-7 manned space flight last autumn, in which Zhai Zhigang became the first Chinese man to walk in space, by launching a small space laboratory, the 8-ton Tiangong-1.
In 2011, it plans to launch the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft and perform a docking test with the laboratory. If this is successful, China plans in the same year to launch and carry out docking with Shenzhou-9, a manned craft.
China will begin the selection process this year to find several new 'taikonauts', including, perhaps, the first female taikonaut.
At the end of 2011, China also plans to launch its Chang'e-2 lunar probe project. The probe will make observations of the moon from a low altitude of 100 km. Furthermore, as early as 2013, China reportedly plans an unmanned moon landing with its next lunar probe, Chang'e-3. The probe's lunar rover will spend 90 days on the moon's surface, collecting and analysing soil and other samples.
In all, the country plans to launch 15 to 16 satellites this year, Zhang Jianqi, deputy chief commander of the manned space project, said on Monday.
"Though the global financial crisis is taking toll on world economy, it has no impact on China's space programs," Zhang, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, told media.
China is at present "batch-producing" the three spacecraft, Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, according to Zhang. "This is the first time for the country to conduct research and production on three spacecraft at the same time," he said.
China has sent an average of eight satellites into space annually during the first two years of its 11th five-year plan (2006-2010).