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China eyes space walk in 2007
Updated: 2005-10-17 16:00

Shenzhou 6 orbited the Earth more than 70 times and traveled more than 1.9 million miles, Xinhua said.

The mission was substantially longer and more complex than the 2003 flight, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited for 21 1/2 hours before his capsule landed by parachute.

The manned space program is a costly prestige project for China's communist leaders. They hope to burnish the country's standing abroad and shore up their own support at home by stirring patriotic pride at a time of widespread frustration over corruption and a growing gap between the country's rich and poor.

Chinese leaders have defended the program's expense, saying it will help to drive economic and technological development.

The government says the manned space program has cost a total of US $2.3 billion a fraction of the budget of its American counterpart.

The government didn't disclose the planned length of the flight in advance or details of the astronauts' mission.

The newspaper Beijing News said Nie and Fei would undergo 40 minutes of medical checkups after landing.

"After several days of flying in space, the astronauts may look wan and sallow, so medical staff will put makeup on them to make them look ruddy," the newspaper said.

The two men were to be taken by helicopter to a local airport to board a flight to Beijing, the report said.

Both will be in isolation for observation for 14 days after the mission, but family members will be allowed to visit, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper said.

The mission dominated state media last week. In a break with the military-linked space program's usual secrecy, newspapers and television showed scenes of Fei and Nie working and sometimes playing in orbit.

Scenes of Fei turning somersaults and the astronauts setting bits of food floating in zero gravity.

CCTV put together a montage set to music of the astronauts' activities on Saturday taking their blood pressure and reading books along with photos they had taken of the vessel's solar panels.


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