China plans October space mission

China's second manned space mission - and its first to carry two astronauts - is due to launch on 13 October, weather permitting, and return five days later, a state media report said.

    Shenzhou V orbited the Earth for over 21 hours in 2003

    The launch of Shenzhou VI is scheduled for 11am at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base, in the Gobi desert in northern China, with the mission lasting 119 hours if all goes according to plan, the state-run China News Service reported on Sunday.


    It said midday was chosen as the launch time to improve safety and allow launch personnel enough time for final preparations, unlike some past unmanned missions that pushed off in the night and predawn hours.


    "The main reason is to provide greater safety for the astronauts because these spaceships are manned spaceships," the report said.


    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.


    China's first manned space flight in October 2003 made it the third country able to launch a human into space on its own, after Russia and the United States.


    Colonel Yang Liwei, a former fighter pilot, orbited the Earth for 21 and a half hours aboard the Shenzhou V capsule before landing in China's northern grasslands.


    Earlier reports said he would not be making this trip.


    Training fighter pilots


    Instead, Yang is helping train former fighter pilots who are reportedly the candidates for Shenzhou VI. The initial group of 14 has been narrowed down to three pairs, or a total of six, the China News Service said.


    Yang Liwei will help train
    candidates for Shenzhou VI

    It said Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng, two alternates for Shenzhou V, were "the strongest group with the greatest confidence" for carrying out the mission.


    Plans call for the capsule to carry two astronauts - or "taikonauts" for the Chinese word for space.


    Beijing does not participate in the US-led international space station project.


    The report cited an unnamed researcher as saying that the new space capsule was not a duplicate of Shenzhou V due to more than 100 technological modifications that made it more conducive to scientific research.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Why some African Americans are moving to Africa

    Escaping systemic racism: Why I quit New York for Accra

    African-Americans are returning to the lands of their ancestors as life becomes precarious and dangerous in the USA.

    Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

    Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

    No country in the world recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

    US: Muslims to become second-largest religious group

    US: Muslims to become second-largest religious group

    By 2050 the number of Muslims is projected to reach 8.1 million, or 2.1 percent, of the total US population.