China will have spent 39 billion yuan ($6.1 billion) on its manned space missions between the program’s launch in 1992 and the end of next year, according to Wu Ping, a space program spokesman quoted in the Beijing Times. Half of that was spent in the period up to 2005, the year of the Shenzhou-6 mission. The rest has gone on the subsequent flights that will culminate in Shenzhou-10′s mission next year. The photo above shows the three astronauts on the current mission, Shenzhou-9, aboard the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module following docking.
By way of comparison, the U.S.’s Apollo program, the one that put Americans on the Moon and first docked a spacecraft in 1966, was estimated in 1973 to have cost $25.4 billion, which is $135 billion in 2012 dollars. China is making great strides in space, but the numbers suggest how far it still has to go to catch up the U.S. and Russia as space powers.