Video: Inside China's space effort

msnbc.com news services
updated 7/5/2005 3:03:28 PM ET 2005-07-05T19:03:28

China has reportedly narrowed the list of astronauts for the country’s second manned space mission later this year to six candidates.

The Shenzhou 6 space vehicle is to blast off in September or October, carrying two astronauts on a four- or five-day flight. Officials will pick the two astronauts shortly before the flight, according to Chinese media reports.

The Chinanews.com Web site quoted Huang Chunping, the chief launch vehicle designer, as saying that that two-man team that showed the best teamwork would be chosen. The six candidates — selected from a pool of 14 — might include Yang Liwei, who became China’s first man in space in October 2003, Huang told the Beijing Times.

The government says the astronauts are to carry out unspecified tests while in orbit.

Yang’s 21-hour-plus mission made China the third nation to launch a human into space on its own, after Russia and the United States.

He orbited Earth 14 times on the mission before landing by parachute in the country’s northern grasslands.

The communist government attaches enormous pride to its space program, and Yang has become a celebrity.

Huang signaled that China might increase its flight schedule: “China should accelerate its space development, such as by launching manned spaceflights every year,” he told Chinanews.com.

China would be ready to set up its own orbiting space station in 2010, Huang was quoted as telling Hong Kong’s Wen Wei Po newspaper.

The country aims to have an astronaut perform a spacewalk during the Shenzhou 7 mission and eventually plans to send missions to the moon.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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