Xi'an Satellite Control Center, a major Chinese institution responsible for recovering satellites and spaceships, has started training its rescue and search teams for the third manned space mission, scheduled to be launched in 2008.
Yao Liang, head of the center's rescue and recovery team, said their work, which is the last step of a manned space program, includes locating the space capsule that re-enters the earth's atmosphere, rescuing astronauts and transporting the capsule from the landing site to the control center.
Yao said initial training started after the Shenzhou VI space mission in 2005 and dozens of workers are being trained for four hours per day.
"Compared to the previous two manned space missions, the up-coming Shenzhou VII space mission, which includes a space walk, is more complex. We have been organizing training in accordance with new requirements and learning to operate new equipment on the spaceship and deal with any possible hitches," Yao said.
He said the team had recruited more workers as there will be three astronauts on the next spacecraft. Two workers will be assigned to each astronaut.
China launched its manned space program in 1999. It successfully sent Yang Liwei, the country's first astronaut, into orbit on the Shenzhou V spacecraft in 2003. Yang spent about 21 hours in orbit.
Two years later, astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng completed a Chinese record five-day flight on the Shenzhou VI. All astronauts returned to the ground safely.
The Shenzhou VII is expected to carry three astronauts in 2008. The astronauts are scheduled to perform work outside the capsule such as installing equipment and "tightening screws".
(Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2007)