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China's Shenzhou 6 To Carry Two Astronauts On Five-Day Mission Next Year
China's second manned space flight will orbit the Earth for five days with two astronauts onboard in a mission scheduled for next year, state press said Monday.
"For the first time, astronauts will enter and live in the orbital module of the spacecraft to do scientific experiments," the China Aerospace Science and Technology (CAST) group said in the first official statement regarding the mission, the China Daily reported.
China's first-ever manned spaceflight, Shenzhou V, orbited the Earth for 21 hours last October with astronaut Yang Liwei remaining in his seat in the return capsule of the three module craft for the entire mission.
It made China only the third country to send a man into orbit, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Shenzhou VI will be a fundamentally different mission from the early flights of the Russian and US manned space programs where solo flights were tested for years before multiple astronauts were blasted into space.
The space ship is also different from the designs of the early Russian and US models, the newspaper reported.
Besides having a propulsion module that will disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere after use, an orbital module is designed to stay in space for months after the manned portion of the flight ends.
Astronaut Yang is expected to be in the running for a place on the Shenzhou VI flight, with the nation preparing a group of 14 astronauts for upcoming missions.
The flight is widely expected to happen in autumn 2005.
"I will conduct space flights again if the motherland needs me to do so," Yang said last month on the first anniversary of his maiden flight.
"My colleagues and I are undergoing strict training as usual and are anticipating the next mission."
According to Chinese press reports, Yang was chosen for the maiden voyage only hours before the flight. He has since become one of China's biggest celebrities.
The Shenzhou I to IV flights were unmanned test flights of China's fledgling manned space program.
CAST issued their statement at the Fifth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai city, south China's Guangdong province.
The event is being attended by delegations from 32 countries and regions and has drawn big global players in the aviation industry.
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The Year Of Shenzhou
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Oct 05, 2004
It's roughly one year since Yang Liwei became China's first astronaut. The ascendancy of China to the elite club of human spaceflight nations has produced a curious mix of effects, both within China itself and around the world.
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