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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
China set for second space shot
Yang Liwei, AFP
China's first yuhangyuan: Yang Liwei was big news in 2003
China's second manned space mission will blast off on 13 October at the earliest, Chinese news sources claim.

The Shenzhou-6 spacecraft will launch from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base, in the Gobi desert of northern China.

Reports say the Chinese will send two astronauts into space for a mission lasting about five days.

China's first manned launch in October 2003 made it only the third country to send a human into space on its own, after Russia and the US.

The military-backed space programme is a major prestige project for the communist government.

China has announced plans to land an unmanned probe on the Moon by 2010, as well as operate a space station.

Shenzhou-6 will blast off at 1100 local time to improve safety and allow personnel more preparation time, unlike some previous unmanned missions that launched at night and in the pre-dawn hours.

The launch window is scheduled to run from 13-17 October, the Chinese media reports say.

Divine vessel

The Shenzhou, or "Divine Vessel", is a modified version of the three-seat Russian Soyuz capsule.

During their voyage, the two astronauts will be able to take off their 10kg (22lb) space suits, travel between the re-entry capsule and the orbiter and conduct scientific experiments.

CHINA'S SPACEMEN
Yuhangyuan - Chinese for space navigator
Used in official media
Taikonaut - derived from taikong, space
Coined by Singapore-based website
The shape of the craft is said to be no different from that of Shenzhou-5.

But the state-run China News Service quoted an unnamed researcher as saying that the new space capsule was not a duplicate, adding that there are more than 100 technological modifications to make it more conducive to scientific research.

The news service said the astronauts would have sleeping bags, for greater comfort, and would be able to heat up their food, wash and take rests.

It said they would spend 119 hours in space before landing at Siziwangqi in China's northern grasslands.

Strong candidates

In October 2003, Colonel Yang Liwei, a former fighter pilot, orbited the Earth for 21.5 hours aboard the Shenzhou-5 capsule.

Earlier reports said Yang would not be aboard the latest mission. Instead, he is said to be helping train former fighter pilots who are the candidates for Shenzhou-6.

The initial group of 14 had been narrowed down to three pairs, or a total of six, the China News Service said.

It added that Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng, two candidates for Shenzhou-5, were "the strongest group with the greatest confidence" for carrying out the new mission.




SEE ALSO:
Date set for China space shot
15 Jul 05 |  Science/Nature
China aims for five days in orbit
01 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
China launches spacewomen hunt
28 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
China's vision for new space age
08 Jul 04 |  Science/Nature
China puts its first man in space
15 Oct 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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