China's First Astronaut Will Not Fly on Shenzhou 6
SHANGHAI, China (AP) - China plans to send its second manned space mission into orbit next month, but the man who made the first trip won't be along.
Instead, Yang Liwei, a national hero since blasting into space aboard the Shenzhou V spacecraft in October 2003, is helping train candidate astronauts to ride in the Shenzhou VI, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
"I will not take this mission,'' Yang was quoted as saying. China earlier this month said it was narrowing the list of candidates for the mission, scheduled for mid-October.
Plans call for the capsule to carry two astronauts - or "taikonauts'' for the Chinese word for space - on a five- or six-day flight. Previous reports said 14 former fighter pilots were training for the mission.
The military-backed space program is a major prestige project for the communist government. China has announced plans to land an unmanned probe on the moon by 2010 and operate a space station.
Beijing does not participate in the U.S.-led international space station project.
Yang was quoted as saying the astronauts would have more space this time than when he made his 21-hour flight, inhabiting the craft's orbit capsule as well as its return module. They'll have more creature comforts too, including heated food, sleeping bags and "essential sanitary equipment.''
China will begin a major recruiting drive for astronauts - including women - beginning next year.
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