Countdown to second manned space mission
Updated: 2005-10-10 13:34
JIUQUAN - China is expected to launch its second manned space mission on
Wednesday from a remote desert region, swelling national pride and leaving many
foreign observers in awe at what the country has achieved.
The launch of Shenzhou VI has been
shrouded in secrecy and is subject to weather conditions, but an official from
the technical department of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center said it will
happen on Wednesday.
Shenzhou VI, a
spaceship to carry two astronauts into orbit, sits atop of the LM-2F
carrier rocket at the launching pad in Jiuquan satellite launch center in
northwest China October 7, 2005. It is widely reported that China's second
manned spaceship will be launched on October 13. [Nanfang
"It is October 12 at 9 am," the official, who refused to be named, told AFP.
The China National Space Administration could not confirm the date. However,
a travel agent taking domestic tourists to witness the launch said he had been
advised to be at the site early Wednesday morning.
The six astronauts shortlisted for the two-member mission have arrived at the
launch pad in Inner Mongolia, the China News Service said, citing engineers at
the launch center.
China's state-run press reported that Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng would
likely pilot the five-day mission.
It will be almost exactly two years after the successful October 15, 2003
launch of astronaut Yang Liwei into space, making China only the third nation
after the United States and the former Soviet Union to accomplish such a feat.
"The Chinese should be very proud of what they are accomplishing," said David
Baker, a London-based space policy analyst for Jane's Defence Weekly.
"It's the kind of activity that only a developed and well-organized
industrial nation can pull off."
While the Shenzhou technology is based on 1950s and 1960s Soviet science,
analysts said it would be wrong to shrug off China's space program.
"If it was easy, China wouldn't be the third country with a manned program,"
said Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on Chinas space program at the US Naval War
"The technology isn't exactly breakthrough technology, but being able to put
it all together and make it work, is sending a message that in fact China has
integration skills, it has follow-through capability to build this kind of