Space mission may be launched on Wednesday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 October, 2005, 12:00am

China Central Television is preparing to start live coverage of the Shenzhou VI space mission on Wednesday amid expectations that the spacecraft could be launched a day earlier than have been tipped.

An employee of CCTV's newsroom in Beijing yesterday said coverage could start as early as 8am on the day of the launch, followed by delayed footage of the two astronauts in space. China's first man in space, Yang Liwei , is expected to be one of the hosts of the show.

'That is the plan right now, but it will depend on his workload,' the employee said.

The state television network has reportedly sent more than 40 employees to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu to prepare for the live broadcast, in an effort to 'save face' after not airing live coverage of China's first manned space flight in 2003.

Live broadcast of the launch would probably continue even if it was unsuccessful, according to some local reports. The network has prepared footage of failed launches by other countries to use if something does go wrong with the Shenzhou VI operation.

Security has been stepped up at the site, according to reporters stationed in Jiuquan, and guards are patrolling the astronauts' living quarters.

A security check has been set up about 30km from the launch site, with officials dressed in military attire checking the identities of everyone trying to pass through. From today, no one will be allowed in the compound unless they are employees.

Officials have yet to announce the names of the two astronauts who will pilot the spacecraft. All six candidates have been undergoing last-minute training in the lead-up to the announcement.

The launch, originally scheduled for Thursday, could be brought forward to Wednesday or even delayed, depending on the weather.

The Shenzhou VI will be China's second manned space flight. The spacecraft is expected to carry the two astronauts for about five days to conduct scientific experiments.