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Our Fact Sheets and Reports

China's Human Spaceflight Program: Background and List of Crewed and Automated Missions

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Jun-2013 (Updated: 17-Aug-2014 06:39 PM)


China's human spaceflight program, Project 921, officially began in 1992.  The launch of Shenzhou-10 in June 2013 was the tenth flight in the series, but only the fifth to carry a crew.

Shenzhou 1-4 were automated tests of the spacecraft.   Shenzhou-8 was an automated test of rendezvous and docking procedures with the Tiangong-1 space station.

Tiangong-1, China's first space station, was launched in September 2011.  It hosted the automated Shenzhou-8 in 2011 and two three-person crews:  Shenzhou-9 in 2012 and Shenzhou-10 in 2013.  

The Tiangong-1 space station is a small (8.6 metric ton) module. As first space stations go, it is rather modest -- just less than half the mass of the world's first space station, the Soviet Union's Salyut 1.  Launched in 1971, Salyut 1 had a mass of about 18.6 metric tons.  The first U.S. space station, Skylab, launched in 1973, had a mass of about 77 metric tons.  Today's International Space Station (ISS), a partnership among the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe, and Canada, has a mass of about 400 metric tons and has been permanently occupied by 2-6 person crews rotating on 4-6 month missions since the year 2000.

Chinese astronauts are often called "taikonauts" in the West. English-language Chinese reports call them astronauts.  Shenzhou means Divine Vessel.  Tiangong means Heavenly Palace.  All human spaceflight-related launches have been from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi desert.

The following table lists all ten Chinese human spaceflight missions to date, including automated tests and those that carried crews.

(Prepared by


Launch Date

Crew (# of flights)



Nov. 19, 1999


Automated test


Jan. 9, 2001


Automated test


Mar. 25, 2002


Automated test


Dec. 29, 2002


Automated test


Oct. 15, 2003

Yang Liwei

First Chinese astronaut
21 hour 12 min mission


Oct. 12, 2005

Fei Junlong
Nie Haisheng

First Chinese 2-person crew
5 day mission


Sept. 25, 2008

Zhai Zhigang
Liu Boming
Jing Haipeng

First Chinese 3-person crew
First Chinese spacewalk (Zhai for 22 min; Liu did stand-up EVA in airlock for about 2 min)
3 day mission
Small (40 kg) subsatellite ejected


Sept. 29, 2011


First Chinese space station (8.5 metric tons)


Oct. 31, 2011


Automated test of rendezvous and docking with Tiangong-1 (docked twice)


July 19, 2012

Jing Haipeng (2)
Liu Wang
Liu Yang

First Chinese space station crew; automated and manual docking
Liu Yang first Chinese woman astronaut
Jing first Chinese astronaut to make 2 flights
13 day mission


June 11, 2013

Nie Haisheng (2)
Zhang Xiaoguang
Wang Yaping

Automated docking with Tiangong-1 June 13.  Later did manual docking test, and, just before reentry, a fly-around (China's first).
Wang second Chinese woman astronaut and first "teacher in space" because she taught a lesson from space
15 day mission


Legislative Checklist 113th Congress: Major Space-Related Legislation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Feb-2013 (Updated: 28-Mar-2015 05:04 PM)
Legislative Checklist 113th Congress:  Major Space-Related Legislation is a free fact sheet that provides information on major legislation concerning the U.S. space program (civil, military, commercial) pending before or passed by the 113th Congress (2013-2014).   Information includes bill numbers, dates of action taken by congressional committees, and links to legislation and related congressional committee reports.  The fact sheet was updated as needed throughout the 113th Congress.   This is the final version, dated January 3, 2015.

NASA's FY2013 Budget Request

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Feb-2012 (Updated: 04-Sep-2013 10:14 PM)

NASA's FY2013 Budget Request is a fact sheet that tracked NASA's FY2013 budget request as it worked its way through Congress.  The fact sheet summarizes three key issues that arose while Congress debated the bill:  robotic Mars exploration, whether to transfer NOAA's weather satellite programs to NASA, and funding for the commercial crew program. 

This edition of the fact sheet includes final funding figures for NASA from its FY2013 operating plan, which was approved in August 2013.  NASA has not released the operating plan to the public, but provided the figures in this fact sheet upon request by on August 29, 2013. In addition, it includes a chart using data provided by NASA's planetary science division director with additional details on the final FY2013 funding figures for specific planetary exploration programs.

The current date of this fact sheet is September 4, 2013.




FY2013 Budget Requests for Space Activities: Where to Find Agency Budget Documentation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Feb-2012 (Updated: 15-Sep-2012 01:43 PM)
FY2013 Budget Request for Space Activities:  Where to Find Agency Budget Documentation is a fact sheet that provides links to FY2013 budget request documentation for U.S. government space activities.  Included are links to budget materials for the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which operates the Landsat land remote sensing satellites.  This fact sheet is dated September 15, 2012 and updates the link for NOAA's Blue Book.

Box Score of 2011 Launches

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jan-2012 (Updated: 16-Jan-2012 07:32 PM)
Box Score of 2011 Space Launches is a free fact sheet from that shows the total number of space launches in 2011 by Russia, the United States, Europe (Arianespace), China, Japan, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and South Korea.   The table shows how  many space launches were successful and how many were failures.

Legislative Checklist: Major Space-Related Legislation in the 112th Congress, A Fact Sheet

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-May-2011 (Updated: 18-Jan-2013 03:42 PM)

Legislative Checklist:  Major Space-Related Legislation in the 112th Congress is a fact sheet that tracked major space-related legislation as it moved through the 112th Congress (the years 2011-2012).

Bill numbers, report numbers, and dates when major steps in the legislative process -- such as subcommittee and full commitee markup, floor consideration, conference action, and signing into law -- are shown.  It includes funding bills for NASA, NOAA, DOD and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration, including the FY2013 Continuing Resolution that funds the government through March 27, 2013.  It also includes legislation to extend the government's authority to indemnify commercial launch services companies from claims by third parties (the general public) for certain amounts of money if there is a launch accident, to ease export controls on commercial satellitles, and to rename the Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong.

This fact sheet was updated many times throughout the 112th Congress.  This is the final version and is dated January 18, 2013.

What's a Markup? Answers to That and Other Legislative Mysteries. A Fact Sheet

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Feb-2011 (Updated: 03-Jan-2015 02:40 PM)

Note:  A newer version of this fact sheet is available dated January 3, 2015, but we are keeping the link to this older version for historical purposes.

Ever wonder what a congressional "markup" is and why you should be interested when one is being held? Our new fact sheet, "What's a Markup?: Answers to That and Other Legislative Mysteries ," is an easy to read introduction to the lexicon of Congress and the making of legislation. It offers a general overview of the typical path that legislation follows, but is not a comprehensive guide. The Senate and the House of Representatives have links on their home pages to scholarly reports on how our laws are made for those who require a detailed understanding. Ours is for those who just need the basics. A fresh coat of paint was put on this fact sheet in February 2011.

NASA's FY2012 Budget Request: A Fact Sheet

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Feb-2011 (Updated: 11-Jan-2012 01:50 PM)

NASA's FY2012 Budget Request is a fact sheet that tracked NASA's FY2012 budget request as it worked its way through Congress and shows the final FY2012 appropriations for the agency.  The report was most recently updated on January 11, 2012.

FY2012 Budget Request for Space Activities: Where To Find Agency Budget Documentation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 05:17 PM)

FY2012 Budget Documentation: Where To Find Agency Budgets is a Fact Sheet that provides links to FY2012 budget request documentation for U.S. government space activities. Included are links to budget documentation for the Department of Defense, Department of Energy's Office of Science, FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, NOAA's National Environmental Satellite Service, NASA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (which operates the Landsat satellites). This fact sheet will not be updated.

NASA's FY2011 Appropriations: Final Action in the 112th Congress

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 05:17 PM)

NASA's FY2011 Appropriations: Final Action in the 112th Congress is a fact sheet that tracked congressional action on NASA's FY2011 budget in the 112th Congress and shows the final appropriations amounts for the agency in the full-year Continuing Resolution (P.L. 112-10). The final version is dated April 19, 2011; it will not be updated again.

A historical fact sheet that tracked action on NASA's FY2011 authorization and appropriations bills in the 111th Congress remains available, but is not updated. It includes the authorized levels for NASA for FY2011, FY2012 and FY2013.

A separate fact sheet tracks the FY2012 request.