China, which last year became the third nation to blast a man into space, plans to send two astronauts up on a five-to-seven-day mission in 2005 and later build a space station, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Saturday.For those of us who remember Mercury and Gemini, this sounds like a replay, only in fast-forward. And it only took the USA less than 10 years from its first crewed mission into space till the time Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the Moon.
Wang Yongzhi, chief designer of the nation's manned space program, told CCTV preparations for the launch of the two-person Shenzhou VI craft were proceeding smoothly.
"We will continue by launching Shenzhou VII, Shenzhou VIII and so on, carry out spacewalks, make space dockings and set up a space laboratory," Wang told CCTV.
He said astronauts would stay aboard the orbiting lab for short periods, with spacecraft ferrying them back and forth. Eventually, China would launch a larger space station capable of carrying out more extensive experiments, he said.
China's team of 14 trained astronauts, including Yang, have been placed in seven pairs to train for the next mission and three of the pairs will be finalists to fly it, Xinhua news agency said early this month.
Sunday, 22 February 2004
From China's official Xinhua News Agency :