Watch out, America. China is steadily catching up in space.
Between June and August this year, China plans to send three astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-9 for manual docking of the spacecraft with Tiangong 1, a space lab that has been orbiting the Earth since September.
One of the astronauts will not board the space lab, media reports say, but will remain inside the spacecraft in case of emergency.
The Chinese space program is advancing, and fast, to the point that the country's ambition has become a campaign issue in the United States.
China plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and assemble a 60-ton manned space station around 2020, when the current International Space Station is estimated to likely retire, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in November. China has also begun efforts to explore the moon using space robotics. The eventual goal: a manned lunar landing.
This exploration comes as the United States has been scaling back its plans and funding for space exploration.