Chinaâ€™s dream of a permanent manned presence on the space frontier will be one step closer to reality, if all goes according to the plans of the morning of Thursday, October 13, 2005.
On that day, the Shenzhou VI spacecraft will blast off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base and place two Chinese taikonauts into orbit.
Shenzhou VI will carry
A â€œtaikonautâ€ is a Chinese astronaut. The term â€œShenzhouâ€ means â€œdivine vesselâ€.
The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base, located in the southwest region of the
According to a researcher in
The exact launch and return times have yet to be finalized, depending largely on the weather conditions during that time. A
An expert remarked that Shenzhou I and II were respectively launched in the small hours of the morning and at midnight. Shenzhou III was launched in the very late evening, while Shenzhou IV was launched in the early morning.
The Shenzhou VI, like its predecessor Shenzhou V, will launch in the daytime. The chief reason is to ensure greater safety as these missions are manned.
Shenzhou V was launched at 9.00 in the morning. A near-noon launch time was chosen for the Shenzhou VI mainly because the rise in temperature at that time will better assist the ground crew in their final preparations, and because it will be easier to ensure the taikonautsâ€™ safety in the event of an emergency.
So far, the last stage of assembly and inspection of the Shenzhou VI spaceship and the Changzheng [Long March] 2F rocket that will boost it into orbit are being carried out at Jiuquan.
It has also been learned that the mass of the Shenzhou VI spaceship will increase by 200 kg to accommodate two crew. An aerospace expert in
The two taikonauts that will fly the Shenzhou VI mission will be chosen from a pool of six, consisting of three groups of two crew each. The selection will be made during the countdown period, as was done with the Shenzhou V mission.
Zhai Zhigang, a comrade of Colonel Liwei’s, and Nie Haisheng compose one of the three final groups. According to an analysis, the “Zhai-Nie” group is the strongest in the running. Although anything can happen at the last minute, it is highly probable that these two men will embark on the Shenzhou VI, advancing