The Purple Mountain Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced it has named two asteroids after Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, two astronauts from China's second manned space mission in 2005.
According to Yang Jiexing, secretary of the asteroids naming committee in the observatory, the naming decision has been approved by the International Astronomical Union.
Yang said code names of the two asteroids, respectively 9512 and 9517, coincide with the dates on which the Shenzhou VI was launched and returned, according to a Nanjing-based newspaper.
The Shenzhou VI manned spaceship took off on Oct. 12, 2005, circled around Earth continuously for five days and returned on Oct. 17, 2005.
"It seems the two asteroids are waiting for the Shenzhou VI to visit space," said Yang, quoted by the newspaper.
China started naming asteroids in 1979. The country's first space astronaut Yang Liwei and "Shenzhou" have also been sharing names with asteroids. Big names like Qian Xuesen, father of China's space and missile industry, and Yang Zhenning, a Nobel-prize physicist, have also been used to name asteroids in the space.
Shenzhou V, China's first manned spacecraft, blasted off in October 2003, making China the third nation after the former Soviet Union and the United States to send a human into space.
China's next manned space flight Shenzhou VII, the third in its space program, is scheduled to take place in 2008.
(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2007)