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Astronauts in training for 2nd spaceflight
Updated: 2005-03-04 11:41

China is training 10 astronauts in five pairs in the run-up to its second ever manned spaceflight, scheduled for this fall, a leading rocket expert has revealed.

"About one month prior to the formal launch, two pairs of trainees with comparatively poorer performance will be disqualified. But it will not be decided till the last minute which pair of the remaining three can become the formal pilots," Huang Chunping, the chief launch vehicle designer of the country's manned spaceflight program, was quoted as saying by the Beijing Times newspaper Friday.

China, which accomplished its first manned spaceflight with the launch of the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in October 2003, plans to send the Shenzhou-6 into orbit later this year.

Yang Liwei, China's first space man, displays China's national flag and the United Nation's flag in Shenzhou V, China's first manned spaceship, in the outer space October 15, 2003. [filephoto] 

As the Shenzhou-5 only had a space voyage of some 21 and half hours with one single pilot, the Shenzhou-6 will carry two astronauts and stay in outer space for at least five days, said Huang, who is here to attend the ongoing annual full session of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top advisory body.

Huang disclosed that China's first and only spacefaring astronaut Yang Liwei was also among the trainees. The 40-year-old Yang, a former fighter jet pilot of the Chinese People's Liberation Army air force, piloted the Shenzhou-5 spaceship and was crowned a "space hero" upon his safe return.

According to Huang, two new technologies were applied in the design of the Shenzhou-6's launch vehicle. One is a video transmission system which enables the ground controllers to monitor the separation of the rocket and the spaceship live, and the other is a better escape system for the pilots in case of emergencies.

He also acknowledged that the return capsule of the Shenzhou-6, which was designed to accommodate three astronauts, would be quite "spacious" for two men.

According to schedule, the two astronauts on the mission will enter the orbit capsule of the spacecraft to "conduct some scientific experiments" during the spaceflight, but there is no plan to engage them in any activities out of the spacecraft such as space walk, Huang said.

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