China to achieve spacewalk in 5 years

Updated: 2006-10-12 15:50

China aims to enable its astronauts to spacewalk in the next five years, according to a white paper [full text]   on China's space activities issued in Beijing on Thursday.

The white paper, released by the Information Office of the State Council, says China will conduct experiments on spacecraft rendezvous and docking.

Sun Laiyan, head of China National Space Administration, speaks during a news conference on the nation's space plans in Beijing October 12, 2006. Xinhua]
Sun Laiyan, administrator of China National Space Administration, said on Thursday that the launching date of "Shenzhou VII" would be decided by the progress of the project.

Shenzhou VII would probably be launched in 2008, said Sun, adding that the astronauts would conduct extravehicular operations at that time.

"The candidate astronauts for Shenzhou VII are receiving training, and the final selection will be made shortly before the launch," Sun said.

With the development of its space technology, China would be able to send female astronauts, as well as scientists, philosophers and even journalists into space in the future.

He said China's manned space activities were still at the experimental stage. When the technologies matured, space tourism might begin.

China would develop and launch its first lunar probe satellite "Chang'e I" for lunar science and lunar resources exploration, said Sun.

"The project is progressing smoothly, and the final assembly of Chang'e I has been completed. The satellite is expected to be launched in 2007," Sun said.

He said China had no plans yet to probe Mars, but preliminary ground research had been conducted by scientists and engineers.

"We hope to conduct a Mars probe and other deep space exploration through international cooperation," Sun said.

The 8,500-character white paper, the second of its kind since 2000, outlines the development of China's space industry over the past five years and its plans for the near future.

Introducing the major tasks of China's space industry in the coming five years, the white paper describes research on short-term manned and long-term autonomously orbiting space laboratories and follow-ups to manned spaceflight.

On November 20 and 21, 1999, China launched and retrieved the first Shenzhou unmanned experimental spacecraft. It then launched three more Shenzhou unmanned experimental spacecraft not long afterwards.

On October 15 and 16, 2003, China launched and retrieved Shenzhou V, China's first manned spacecraft.

Having mastered the basic technologies of manned spacecraft, China became the third country in the world to develop manned spaceflight independently.

From October 12 to 17, 2005, the Shenzhou VI manned spacecraft completed a five-day flight with two astronauts on board carrying out the country's for space-based experiments.