Shenzhou 6 Astronauts Adjust Spacecraft's Orbit
Chinese astronauts Fei Junlong (right) and Nie Haisheng eat breakfast 213 miles (343 kilometers) above Earth on Oct. 14, 2005.
CREDIT: China National Space Administration/Xinhuanet/CCTV.
China's Shenzhou 6 spacecraft fired its thrusters early Friday to boost the vehicle back into its original orbit, Chinese state media reported.
The orbital maneuver occurred at 5:56 a.m. Beijing Time as Shenzhou 6 made its 30th swing around the Earth with astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng onboard, according the China's Xinhua News Agency. The astronauts have made more than 36 orbits to date and traveled more than 932,056 miles (1.5 million kilometers), the news agency added.
Mission controllers at Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center said Thursday that this morning's orbital maneuver was required because Shenzhou 6 had deviated from its planned 213-mile (343-kilometer) orbit around Earth, state media reported.
The Shenzhou 6 astronauts - also known as taikonauts - are expected to spend up to five days in orbit, though weather at their landing site in the Siziwang Banner region of Inner Mongolia will likely determine the exact time of their landing, Xinhua said.
"In the coming few days, weather conditions at the primary landing area will be basically suitable for the taikonauts to return," Li Yonghui, chief of the meteorological team with the Shenzhou 6 satellite and manned spacecraft recovery troop, told Xinhua Friday.
Earlier Chinese press reports postulated that Fei and Nie could return after three or four days of spaceflight, but did not cite official sources.
Xinhua also cited Wu Guoting, a senior researcher with the China Research Institute of Space Technology, as stating that Shenzhou 6 could return "on, before, or after" the flight's fifth day.
Shenzhou 6 is loaded with enough food, water and oxygen for a seven-day flight, Wu told Xinhua.
Fei and Nie are in their third day of spaceflight after launching into orbit at 9:00 a.m. Oct. 12 Beijing Time (0100 GMT or 9:00 p.m. Oct. 11 EDT) on China's second manned mission and the country's first with two astronauts aboard.
- ZOOM View: Close in on Shenzhou 6 on its Launch Pad
- Shenzhou Rising: China's Second Manned Spaceflight
- Special Report: Emerging China, Engaging China
MORE FROM SPACE.com