Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China's second manned space mission and its first to carry two astronauts is due to launch on October 13, weather permitting, and return five days later, a state media report said.
The launch of Shenzhou VI is scheduled for 11am at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Base, in the Gobi desert in northern China, with the mission lasting 119 hours if all goes according to plan.
It said midday was chosen as the launch time to improve safety and allow launch personnel enough time for final preparations, unlike some past unmanned missions that pushed off in the night and predawn hours.
The military-backed space programme is a major prestige project for the communist government. China has announced plans to land an unmanned probe on the moon by 2010 as well as operate a space station.
Chinese leaders are making triumphant noises. Experts say the mission was partly intended to stimulate the "national pride" of a people worried about poverty, social problems and corruption.
Two astronauts, Jing and Chen, will stay in space for 33 days. They will conduct studies and pharmaceutical, physical and biological tests. Congratulations from President Xi Jinping: "A new contribution to building China as a space power."