July 5, 2005

China Chooses Potential Astronauts

BEIJING (AP) -- China has narrowed the list of astronauts for the country's second manned space mission later this year to six candidates, according to media reports.

The space vehicle is to blast off in September or October, carrying two astronauts on a four- or five-day flight. Officials will pick the two astronaut shortly before the flight.

The Beijing Times newspaper quoted Huang Chunping, the chief launch vehicle designer, as saying that the remaining six candidates might include Yang Liwei, who became China's first man in space in October 2003.

The government says the astronauts are to carry out unspecified tests while in orbit.

Yang's 21 1/2-hour mission made China the third nation to launch a human into space on its own, after Russia and the United States.

He orbited Earth 14 times on the mission before landing by parachute in the country's northern grasslands.

The communist government attaches enormous pride to its space program, and Yang has become a celebrity.