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Media identify likely Shenzhou VI taikonauts
Updated: 2005-09-29 08:53

Chinese media named the likely astronauts to pilot the nation's second manned space flight tentatively scheduled to be launched during the three weeks of October.

Zhai Zhigang (L) and Nie Haisheng pose for a photo at a donation ceremony in Beijing on September 27. [cnsphoto]

At present, the team of Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng has the best chance of piloting the Shenzhou VI, the Shanghai Morning Post said Wednesday, citing unnamed space experts.

"But adjustments can still be made up until the last minute and no one is willing to guarantee who will go up," it said.

Officials at the China National Space Administration refused to confirm or deny the reports.

Zhai and Nie are one of three teams of finalists in the running to pilot the Shenzhou VI, whittled down from a pool of 14 former fighter pilots who are being trained as China's first generation of astronauts.

China has kept the details of its fledgling manned space program securely under wraps, revealing little about the time of launches and the people who will fly the craft until the last moment.

The launch date of China's historic first manned space flight, the Shenzhou V, was only announced five days before the flight, but neither the launch nor the return of the capsule was broadcast live on television.

"At present the Shenzhou VI is still undergoing the testing of its systems," the paper said.

The China News Service reported Sunday that Oct. 13 was the "likely" date of the launch.

Both reports cautioned that the weather or any last minute adjustments to the spacecraft and its Long March 2F carrier rocket could push back the launch date.

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