In an exclusive interview the first Chinese man in space, Yang Liwei, talks to Flight at the 16th International Academy of Astronautics’ Humans in Space Symposium about China’s space programme and his new role in it.

After making his 2003 flight in Shenzhou-5 Yang now has a leading role in training future astronauts. Those astronauts’ missions are expected to be Shenzhou-7, that could involve a space walk, and Shenzhou-10, that might see a crew delivered to a space laboratory created with the docking together of Shenzhou vehicle's eight and nine. Shenzhou-6 flew for five days in October 2005 and carried two astronauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng.

Q. Do you like being famous?

It’s not a personal wish.

Q. What job are you doing now?

I’m a vice-director of China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

Q. How many astronauts do you have in training right now?

We have 14 astronauts.

Q. Will any of your astronauts have a particularly special role in the 2008 Olympics?

It is a big national event [and] each astronaut has his own ideas about the Olympic games.

Q. Are you helping with the development of the new Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) spacesuit?

As a user I would give advice on ergonomics and human factors.

Q. Have you started water tank training [for preparing for extra-vehicular activities]?

We are making some pre-water tank training.

Q. Where will the water tank be?

It will be installed at the [China Astronaut Research and Training Center].

Q. Are you certain that your spacewalk mission will be next year?

Everything is going to schedule.

Q. How far in developing your docking simulation capability for training?

According to the schedule, there are three stages [for our manned spaceflight programme and] we will shortly do an EVA and are preparing for docking.

Q. Will Shenzhou eight and nine be docked together?

It is not decided finally.

BLOG: Flight's technical reporter, Rob Coppinger, is attending the 16th IAA Humans in Space Symposium and you can read about his experiences in Beijing here.