China is set to launch a Shenzhou-11 into orbit on Monday in the latest volley of an intensifying U.S.-China space rivalry.
The two-man vessel will rendezvous with a space lab launched September 15, where the crew will conduct experiments for a month — China's sixth and longest manned mission so far.
With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space.
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Beijing is pouring money into funding the nation's ambitions — which include being the first to explore the dark side of the moon and sending a probe to Mars in 2020, the latter in direct challenge to U.S. and European space agencies.