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Shenzhou 6 Astronauts Adjust Spacecraft's Orbit

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. (Image credit: China National Space Administration/Xinhuanet/CCTV.)

China'sShenzhou 6 spacecraft fired its thrusters early Friday to boost the vehicleback into its original orbit, Chinese state media reported.

The orbitalmaneuver occurred at 5:56 a.m. Beijing Time as Shenzhou 6 made its 30thswing around the Earth with astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng onboard,according the China's Xinhua News Agency. The astronauts have made morethan 36 orbits to date and traveled more than 932,056 miles (1.5 millionkilometers), the news agency added.

Missioncontrollers at Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center said Thursday that thismorning's orbital maneuver was required because Shenzhou 6 had deviated fromits planned 213-mile (343-kilometer) orbit around Earth, state media reported.

TheShenzhou 6 astronauts - also known as taikonauts - are expected to spend up tofive days in orbit, though weather at their landing site in the SiziwangBanner region of Inner Mongolia will likely determine the exact time of theirlanding, Xinhua said.

"In the coming few days,weather conditions at the primary landing area will be basically suitable forthe taikonauts to return," Li Yonghui, chief of the meteorologicalteam with the Shenzhou 6 satellite and manned spacecraft recovery troop, told XinhuaFriday.

EarlierChinese press reportspostulated that Fei and Nie could return after three or four days ofspaceflight, but did not cite official sources.

Xinhua also cited Wu Guoting, a seniorresearcher with the China Research Institute of Space Technology, as statingthat Shenzhou 6 could return "on, before, or after" the flight's fifth day.

Shenzhou 6is loaded with enough food, water and oxygen for a seven-day flight, Wu told Xinhua.

Fei and Nieare in their third day of spaceflight after launchinginto orbit at 9:00 a.m. Oct. 12 Beijing Time (0100 GMT or 9:00 p.m. Oct. 11EDT) on China's second manned mission and the country's first with twoastronauts aboard.

Shenzhou5, China's first piloted launch, carried astronaut YangLiwei into orbit on Oct. 15, 2003. Yang spent 21 ? hours in space andorbited the Earth 14 times before landing safely.

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.