China's next spacecraft, Shenzhou 7, will launch three astronauts for a
five-day travel in space and one of them will carry out the nation's first
spacewalk mission in 2008.
Boarding Shenzhou-6 astronauts, Fei
Junlong (front) and Nie Haisheng have their first meal in capsule at 11:16
a.m.and then say they "feel good" in capsule on Oct 12, 2005. China's
second manned spacecraft, Shenzhou-6, carrying two astronauts,
successfully entered its planned orbit 21 minutes after lefting land on
Wednesday morning, Oct 12, 2005.[Xinhua]
Qi Faren, member of the National Committee of the
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and chief designer of
China's first five Shenzhou spacecrafts told Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei
Po about China's space blueprint after a group discussion on Sunday at the
ongoing CPPCC annual session in Beijing.
According to Qi, the spacewalk mission is just for adaptation, rather than
scientific research or aircraft maintenance.
The Beijing Morning Post quoted Huang Chunping, chief consultant for China's
manned launching vehicle system, as saying the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft would be
ready this year.
However, work was still being done on the suit the astronauts would wear on
the space walk.
"The main reason for the delay is that we wanted to be able to carry out the
space walk completely dependent on our self-ability," Huang said.
Three astronauts will go into space and two of them are expected to make
space walks, Huang was quoted as saying. He said no decision had been made on
how long the walks would be.
The chief designer said after Shenzhou 7,
Shenzhou 8 and Shenzhou 9 are expected to mark China's first orbital docking
between two spacecraft before the 11th Five Year Plan ends (2006-2010), a vital
step forward to establish a proper-scaled space station where scientific
research and earth observation can be carried out.
Insiders said more spacecraft launch plans are waiting in line after Shenzhou
9 and the nation would shorten the intervals between two spacecraft launches.
But the chief designer denied any near plan for women astronauts although a
group of women pilots had been recruited as astronauts reserve.
Qi also ruled out any link between the timing of Shenzhou 7 and the summer
Olympic Games, which start in August 2008 in Beijing. "We are carrying out our
plans following our own steps," he said.
China is only the third nation, after the former Soviet Union and the US, to
independently launch astronauts into space.
China fired its first crewed spacecraft Shenzhou 5 in 2003, carrying the
nation's first astronauts Yang Liwei, who orbited the Earth 14 times in 21
hours. Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng then made a five-day travel in space on
Shenzhou 6 two years later.
The nation's lunar probe mission is also in full swing as Chang'e I lunar
orbiter is ready for liftoff.