Shenzhou Secrets: China Prepares for First Human Spaceflight

After four unmanned trial flights, China’s first-ever piloted spacecraft, the Shenzhou 5 is set to soar. When it does, and if triumphant, China will be propelled into an exclusive country club status: The third nation capable of independently rocketing humans into Earth orbit. Although tight-lipped on a range of technical details, Chinese space officials have hinted at a multi-pronged human spaceflight program, including space station construction, as well as eventual travel to the Moon, all by 2020. China’s first piloted space journey could occur as early as next month. And as NASA comes to grips with a grounded space shuttle fleet, the Red Dragon is on the rise.