China to Launch First Astronaut In One Week


Update: A day after the People's Daily story about a one-orbit mission for Shenzhou V, another state-owned newspaper, China Daily, said that the mission will last for 14 orbits.

According to a report in the state-run newspaper "People's Daily", China will launch a lone astronaut or "yuhangyuan" on a one-orbit trip around Earth on 15 October 2003.

The Shenzhou V mission is expected to last 90 minutes - a repeat of a feat first accomplished by Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Only two other nations on Earth have developed and implemented a human spaceflight capability.

To date, China has flown 4 unmanned versions of its Shenzhou spacecraft. Each mission built upon the previous one, and led up to the flight of a fully operational spacecraft - minus only a human - late last year.

According to People's Daily: "The flight would take place a day after the closing of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's 3rd plenum, a major political meeting. That schedule - coupled with the National Day holiday last week - illustrates China's long-held desire to hold up its space program as a patriotic endeavor, the Associated Press said in a reported filed from Beijing."

The launch is expected ot be covered on Chinese television. It is uncertain whether the launch will be carried live.

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