Sun, Oct 05, 2003
Manned Space Launch Expected Any Day
Exactly what is it that
China is putting into orbit? The People's Republic says it's going
to launch a satellite to "monitor the Earth." But China isn't
talking at all about its first manned space flight, expected any
China has held the launch date ultra-secret. But China watchers
say it's expected sometime this week, during the long national
holiday period commemorating the victory of communists over
Nationalists on the Chinese mainland. Will China announce the date
at any point before the secretive launch?
"It's hard to say," said one official with the China Aviation
Manned Aircraft Office.
Another official, who declined to be identified, said: "We'll
officially announce the date of launch and the number of spaceman
at the right time. We won't give any details before that."
Experience would suggest that the Chinese will launch first,
talk later. There's a reason for that. While a successful manned
mission just weeks after Beijing landed the Olympics would boost
nationalism. A failure would certainly make Chinese citizens wonder
why, when they're so relatively poor, they are spending a dollar a
day on the space program.
There are believed to be three seats on the upcoming mission. To
fill them, China has selected a pool of 14 Air Force pilots. All
are 5'7" tall. All weight about 143 pounds. All were chosen for
their physical and mental attributes.
What will they eat and drink? You can be assured there won't be
any Tang aboard. Su Shuangning, chief commander of the
astronauts-training sector, said, "More than 20 kinds of China-made
and researched space food have been prepared. And the spacesuits to
be worn by the astronauts, which weigh about 10 kg apiece and each
cost as much as a luxury car, are ready for use."
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