BEIJING – China is narrowing down the list of candidates for its second manned space flight and is testing rockets for the liftoff scheduled to occur within weeks, state media said Wednesday.
Plans call for the capsule, called Shenzhou 6 (search), to carry two astronauts — or "taikonauts" — on a five- or six-day flight. Previous reports said 14 former fighter pilots were training for the mission.
"Blastoff of the Shenzhou 6 will be around September or October," said Zhang Qingwei (search), general manager of the China Space Science and Technology Corp., according to the Shanghai Morning Post.
China (search) launched its first manned space flight in October 2003, making it the third country to send a human into space on its own after Russia and the United States.
The military-linked space program is a major prestige project for the communist government. China has announced plans to land an unmanned probe on the moon by 2010 and operate a space station.
Beijing does not participate in the U.S.-led international space station project.