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China To Step Up Space Ambitions In 2013
China is stepping up its ambitious space exploration programme with another manned space mission early next summer, according to its official news agency Xinhua.
The Shenzhou-10, with three crew members, is aiming for a primary launch window in June according to Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the manned space programme.
Mr Niu, speaking on the sidelines of China's 18th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, said officials had identified a back-up launch window for July or August.
He also revealed that one of the three astronauts would probably be a woman.
China sent its first female astronaut, Liu Yang, into space earlier this year on the Shenzhou-9 in the country's first manual space docking mission.
The docking procedure was a major milestone in the country's ambitious space programme that has a goal of building a space station by 2020.
China has said it is working towards landing a man on the moon, but has not specified a time-frame.
The last time a man landed on the moon was during the United States' 1972 Apollo 17 mission.
Beijing has said it will also attempt to land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time in the second half of next year and transmit back a survey of the lunar surface.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
The country sent its first man into space in 2003. It completed a space walk in 2008 and an unmanned docking between a module and rocket last year.
The US is not expected to test a new rocket to take people into space until 2017, and Russia has said manned missions are no longer a priority.