Sat, Oct 15, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Smooth sailing for Chinese spaceflight `Shenzhou VI'

AFP , BEIJING

China's second manned spaceflight is going smoothly but weather conditions at the landing site will determine the timing of its return, state media and space-travel experts said yesterday.

Shenzhou VI, with two astronauts aboard, is scheduled for a five-day mission after a successful launch on Wednesday from northern China's Inner Mongolia.

Xinhua news agency reported 13 landing sites have been set up to prepare for the spacecraft's return at "any time."

Wu Guoting (吳國庭), a senior researcher with the China Research Institute of Space Technology, told Xinhua news agency that the timing will be decided according to weather conditions at the main landing area in Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia.

"The return may occur on, before or after the fifth day of Shenzhou VI's lift-off," he was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Operations on Shenzhou VI have been "very smooth" so far and there was no indication it would be forced to return early, said Chen Lan, an independent Chinese space analyst who runs a space Web site called Go Taikonauts.

Early yesterday, the spacecraft successfully carried out two operations to stay in its original orbital path after earlier deviating slightly.

The vessel started its 32nd orbit yesterday morning, more than 48 hours after it blasted off on Wednesday.

Astronauts Fei Junlong (費俊龍) and Nie Haisheng (聶海勝) were in contact with the mission command center and have frequently been seen on state TV and Web sites.

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