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Project 921 Shenzhou
China and Piloted Space Programs


At a press conference on Oct. 16, 2003, Xie Mingbao, a space official, predicted that China would launch Shenzhou-6 in one or two years. The number of astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-6 spacecraft to be launched in next two years was still undecided, and dismissed reports on the next mission as inaccurate.

Wang Liheng, director of Science and Technology Commission under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CAST), and former deputy chief commander of China"es manned space program, said Shenzhou-5, the first manned spacecraft, had the designed capacity to carry three astronauts and circle the Earth for seven days. The number of astronauts to be sent into space on the second manned flight would be decided only after experts completed analysis of the data collected from Shenzhou-5.

A newspaper in southwest China"es Sichuan province mistakenly quoted Xu Dazhe, deputy president of CAST, as saying that three Chinese astronauts would be sent into space on Shenzhou-6 on a seven-day mission. Xu later told Wang, his former boss, that what he told the newspaper was that Shenzhou-6 had the capacity to carry three astronauts and fly in space for seven days. But rocket expert Wang Yongzhi, chief designer of China"es manned space program, told Xinhua during his visit to Hong Kong that two astronauts would hopefully go into space aboard Shenzhou-6 on a mission lasting more than 24 hours.

Shenzhou VI, China's second manned space flight to be launched in 2005, was scheduled to fly five to seven days, according to Wang Yongzhi, chief designer of China's manned space program. Two astronauts were expected to fly in Shenzhou VI. The design resembles that of Shenzhou V, but this time, the astronauts would step into the orbital module and conduct various types of experiments there. The astronaut team was to start training for the Shenzhou VI flight in March. Yang Liwei, a member of the team, successfully completed China's first manned space flight in October 2003. China would launch a space station of larger scale with greater experimental capacity following Shenzhou VII and Shenzhou VIII.

By the end of 2004 it was reported that China was planning to launch the Shenzhou 6 spaceship, China's second manned spacecraft, in 2005. Yuan Jiajun, the director of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology says the Shenzhou 6 will carry 2 astronauts for a five-day space flight. "The Shenzhou 6 spaceship will face much challenges in adapting to the space environment and in protecting the astronauts. The researchers of manned aerospace must make careful plans to guarantee success." Yuan Jiajun says that up to now, the research and manufacturing of the Shenzhou 6 spaceship has gone smoothly.

On 12 October 2005 Shenzhou VI carried astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng into space for a five-day mission. The launch at the Jiuquan space center in the Gobi Desert went well, with national television carrying the spectacle live. Two Chinese astronauts orbited Earth exactly two years after Beijing launched its first human into space aboard the Shenzhou-5. Experts consider the successful 2003 mission to have been, China's entry into the small club of world-class space powers. the Shenzhou spacecraft series has limited military utility. The primary considerations are instead prestige.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:50:33 ZULU