China eyes first spacewalk in October

Updated: 2008-06-12 14:05

BEIJING -- China's Shenzhou VII manned space mission, which will include the first spacewalk by a Chinese "taikonaut", is to launch in October, said a spokesman of the China manned space engineering office here on Thursday.

He would not give the exact date of the launch, but said a day would be selected in October.

A crew of six astronauts had been chosen for the mission, with three manning the spacecraft and three substitutes, said the spokesman.

Two of the astronauts on board the spacecraft would prepare for the historic spacewalk, he said.

The remaining taikonaut was expected to carry out scientific experiments, he said.

Scientists had finished the research and assembly of the space craft.

The Shenzhou VII will be launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu. The launch center is getting prepared for the launch, according to earlier reports.

The spacewalk mission is crucial for China to establishing a space laboratory or station.

China began its manned space program in 1999 and successfully sent its first astronaut, Yang Liwei, into orbit on the Shenzhou V spacecraft in 2003.

Two years later, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng completed a new Chinese record with a five-day flight on the Shenzhou VI. All returned safely.

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