Friday, February 29, 2008

China to carry out first spacewalk in 2008

BEIJING- China plans to carry out its first spacewalk in second half of the year, an official of the nation's manned space program said here on Thursday.

Shenzhou VII will be launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu late in the year, and the astronauts will leave their spacecraft for the first time, the official told Xinhua.

The spacecraft will also release a small inspection satellite, which monitors its own performance.

Breakthroughs have been made in significant techniques related to the spacewalk. Research into the development of spacecraft and rockets has been going smoothly, and astronauts have undertaken extensive training, according to the official.

Shenzhou VII will start the second phase of China's three-stage space program, said the official.

In the second stage, China plans further breakthroughs in manned space flight, such as space walks and docking of the capsule and space module. In this phase, China will put into orbit a space laboratory staffed by humans for short periods and establish a fully-equipped space engineering system.

In the third stage, China will build a permanent space station and a space engineering system. Astronauts and scientists will travel between the Earth and the space station to conduct large-scale experiments.

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

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

SHANGHAI - China may live broadcast the first ever spacewalk by its astronauts in the upcoming space mission of Shenzhou VII this year, a scientist involved in the program said here on Friday.

Yuan Jie, president of Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), made the remarks at the ongoing annual session of Shanghai People's Congress, or legislature of the city.

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