updated 9/26/2005 12:52:42 PM ET 2005-09-26T16:52:42

China announced plans Sunday to launch its second manned space mission on Oct. 13 and return five days later.

The launch of Shenzhou 6 is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base, in the Gobi desert in northern China, the state-run China News Service reported on Sunday.

The military-backed space program is a major prestige project for the communist government. China hopes to land an unmanned probe on the moon by 2010 and 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.

Col. Yang Liwei, a former fighter pilot, orbited the Earth for 21 1/2 hours aboard the Shenzhou 5 capsule before landing in China’s northern grasslands.

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