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Sea Search and Rescue Readies for Launch of Shenzhou-7 Spacecraft

The sea search and rescue teams have prepared for the launch of Shenzhou-7 spacecraft, vice minister of transport Xu Zuyuan said after a drill concluded on Wednesday.

The drill, carried out in the Yangtze River mouth on Wednesday afternoon, aimed to rescue the astronauts in case the re-entry capsule fell into sea after any accidents happened during the launch, said Zhang Jianqi, a senior official with the country's space program.

During the drill, a fixed-wing aircraft was sent to locate the re-entry capsule. Then a helicopter flew to the presumed location, released an orange smock signal and landed rescuers to check the situation of the "astronauts". Finally the "astronauts" were transported to a rescue ship for medical check-up.

The drill aimed to further enhance the search and rescue capability to ensure the safety of the astronauts, said Song Jiahui, an official with the Ministry of Transport.

The manned spacecraft Shenzhou-7 would be launched at an appropriate time between September 25 and 30 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu Province.

(Xinhua News Agency September 11, 2008)

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