China has announced plans to send two more astronauts into orbit within the next two years.

The Shenzhou VI will be capable of flying for up to seven days, and the chief designer of the country's manned space program, Mr Wang Yongzhi, said the next mission would probably be 'at least 24 hours'.

The government did not identify the 'taikonauts' who would travel on the second mission, although it is likely that the original mission's alternates Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng would be considered favorites. In Hong Kong, Chinese aerospace officials recently said they planned to launch a space station within 10 years – the first time that any hint of a timetable for this project has been given.

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