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FOOTAGE PROVIDED BY CHINA'S STATE BROADCASTER ON BEHALF OF THE BEIJING GOVERNMENT China on Thursday launched an experimental module to lay the groundwork for a future space station, underscoring its ambitions to become a major space power. The Tiangong-1 module was shot into space from the Jiuquan launch centre on the edge of the Gobi Desert, aboard a Long March 2FT1 rocket. Both President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were at the launch. After moving the module into orbit, China plans to launch an unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft to practice docking manoeuvres, possibly within the next few weeks. Two more missions, at least one of them manned, are to meet up with the Tiangong-1 next year for further practice, with astronauts - or taikonauts as they're known in China - staying for up to one month. The 8.5-ton module, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace-1", is to stay aloft for two years, after which two other experimental modules are to be launched for additional tests before the actual station is launched in three sections between 2020 and 2022. The space station, which is yet to be formally named, is the most ambitious project in China's exploration of space, which also calls for landing on the moon, possibly with astronauts. RT on Twitter twitter.com RT on Facebook www.facebook.com