China sent its first woman astronaut on a critical space docking mission, launched last Saturday as part of the country’s ambitious plan to promote its space programs, Asahi Shimbun reports.

The Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, manned by three astronauts, including 33-year old female fighter pilot Liu Yang, will try to dock with the orbiting Tiangong 1, which means “Heavenly Palace”, that was launched last September.

The mission is critical to China’s ambition to put a space station in orbit by 2020 that will showcase the country’s space capabilities alongside military developments and diplomatic weight. He Yu, general commander of China’s manned spacecraft project, claimed that the space programs are peaceful and do not serve military purposes.

China also plans to acquire technological and logistical skills to run a full space lab that is at par with US and Russia. After it’s fourth manned space mission, China plans to send a man to the moon after 2020 to complete its three-stage moon plan. The plan includes deploying a moon rover in 2013 and collecting sample of lunar soil and stones in 2017.