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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 13:39 GMT
China aims for five days in orbit
Launch of Shenzhou V, AP
China successfully launched Shenzhou V into space in 2003
China's second manned space flight will carry two astronauts into space and will orbit the Earth for five days.

The country's space authorities made the announcement about the mission, which is scheduled for next year, at an air show in China's Guangzhou Province.

Mission scientists said they had been working to optimise the performance, safety and reliability of the spacecraft, named Shenzhou VI.

China's first manned mission, Shenzhou V, launched into space in October 2003.

For the first time, astronauts will enter and live in the orbital module of the spacecraft to do scientific experiments
Cast statement
However, that mission flew with a single astronaut - a fighter pilot called Yang Liwei - and lasted just over 21 hours.

In order to create a craft capable of orbiting in space for five days, scientists say they have been trying to reduce weight and improve the performance of onboard instrumentation.

They have also been working to provide a guaranteed energy supply and solve other problems related to environmental control and life support.

National breakthrough

"The spacecraft will make new breakthroughs in China's manned space technology," said a spokesperson for China Aerospace Science and Technology (Cast).

An official statement from Cast said: "For the first time, astronauts will enter and live in the orbital module of the spacecraft to do scientific experiments."

The agency did not specify what those experiments would be.

Shenzhou VI will be launched into orbit aboard a Long March 2F rocket. It will consist of three modules for launch, orbit and re-entry.

China plans to send a satellite called Chang'e-1 into orbit around the Moon in two years.

The satellite, which is part of a planned three-stage programme, would be followed by the landing of an unmanned vehicle on the Moon by 2010 and a sample return mission by 2020.




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