FIRST AIRED: April 20, 2017

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00:00:00
>> China leaping toward a future manned space station, launching an automated supply vessel by rocket on Thursday. It's meant to dock with Tiagong 2 Space Lab in orbit after liftoff, a practice run to master the art of delivering food and fuel by rocket. Eventually, the station will be manned, so this is an important mission.
00:00:19
And while China still lags the US and Russia when it comes to space programs, Reuters Ben Blanchard says this is a milestone.>> China's longer term plan is to have a space station in operation by 2022, and in order to be able do this it really needs to have an ability to get equipment up there.
00:00:36
To send supplies up there so it doesn't keep having to rely on sending manned missions up there, for obviously a lot more risky. So by sending up this spacecraft as cargo craft, enables it to do a much better job, much easier way of getting this equipment up into space for building the space station.
00:00:54
That really is the next crucial step in China's manned space program.>> Beijing's ambition to become a space super power is driving the program, and for President Xi Jinping, it's a top priority.>> He says he wants China to be a space power. So when you have support going all the way up to the top, in a country where President Xi Jinping is basically omnipotent at the moment.
00:01:16
Head of the military, head of the ruling party and of course Head of State, what he says, goes. So as far as China's concerned, this really is a top priority for them.>> After it sheds the rocket, China's spacecraft will take two days before it finally docks with the station.
00:01:31
Automatically unloading over five turns of cargo over the course of it's time in orbit.