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China's Shenzhou 10 ship docks with space lab

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June 13, 2013 12:37 PM EST | AP

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BEIJING — China's latest manned space capsule docked with an orbiting space station Thursday, and the three astronauts climbed aboard what will be their home for the next week, state media reported.

Automated controls guided the Shenzhou-10's docking with the space lab, the Xinhua News Agency said. After entering the space lab, the crew exchanged their space gear for blue jumpsuits, Xinhua said.

During their 12-day stay at the lab, the astronauts will perform a manual docking exercise and conduct scientific experiments. They will also deliver a series of science lectures – part of an outreach to increase the space program's popularity among younger Chinese.

The lab, the Tiangong-1, is an experimental space station. In operation for less than two years, it will be taken out of use later this year and replaced by a larger, more durable module by 2020.

The latest Shenzhou flight the fifth manned mission in a decade in a program that has been marked by methodical advances to catch up with the other two manned space powers – Russia and the U.S.