Special Report: Third Manned Space Mission
The headquarters of China's third manned
space mission holds a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch
Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 24, 2008. China will
launch its third manned spacecraft Shenzhou-7 from Jiuquan Satellite
Launch Center on Thursday Sept. 25, and the launch window is set between
9:07 p.m. to 10:27 p.m. (Beijing Time), according to the
JIUQUAN, Gansu, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- China will
launch its third manned spacecraft Shenzhou-7 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch
Center in Gansu province in the northwest on Thursday, a spokesperson with
China's manned space program said on Wednesday.
The spacecraft, carrying taikonauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu
Boming and Jing Haipeng, was to blast off between 9:07 p.m. to 10:27
p.m.(Beijing Time), said Wang Zhaoyao.
One of the major tasks of the mission would be
extravehicular activity (EVA), or known as space walk, the first of its kind
attempted by Chinese astronauts, Wang said.
The success of the task will mark a remarkable step
in space exploration for China , whose long-term target is to eventually set up
a space station.
Other tasks included the release of a small
monitoring satellite and trials of satellite data relay, said Wang, also deputy
director of China's manned space program office.
Two taikonauts would enter the orbital module, where
they would put on EVA spacesuits and prepare for the extravehicular activities.
One taikonaut would be donned with Chinese-made Feitian EVA suit and the other
with a Russian Orlan suit.
"One taikonaut will get out of the cabin and take
back the test samples loaded outside the module," he said.
"After the EVA is completed, the spacecraft will
release a small monitoring satellite. A trial of the data relay of satellite
Tianlian-I will also be carried out," Wang said.
The Shenzhou-7 will be launched on a Long-March II-F
carrier rocket and then moved into orbit at an altitude of 343 kilometers.
The undated photo shows technicians help
the Shenzhou-7 manned spaceship to dock with the Long-March II-F rocket at
an assembly plant. The spaceship has been finished docking with the rocket
recently. (Xinhua/Qin Xian'an)
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, engineers started to load fuel
into the carrier rocket. The loading, which would last for seven hours, meant
that the launch is irreversible, sources with the launch center said.
Compared with the previous two manned space missions,
the Shenzhou-7 faced unprecedented technical difficulties, the official said.
"EVA is a big leap for the manned space program," he
said. China had made a series of technical breakthroughs, including the research
and development of an EVA suit and airlock module.
Chen Shanguang, commander-in-chief of the astronaut
system, told Xinhua that the China-made EVA spacesuit costs 30 million yuan
(about 4.4 million U.S. dollars) and can be worn by astronauts of 160 cm to 180
The most complicated, advanced and expensive suit in
the world, the EVA spacesuit provides a pressurized atmosphere, oxygen and
temperature control for the astronauts. It also protects astronauts from
radiation, micrometeoroids and other harmful particles in space. It also allows
astronauts to communicate with others.
Chen said China spent less than four years in
developing the EVA spacesuit and its design and assembling were done by Chinese
During the mission, taikonauts would need to assemble
and test the EVA suits, depressurize and repressurize the cabin, exit and
re-enter the orbital module.
"The process of extravehicular activities cannot be
simulated completely on the ground and some of the newly developed products are
to be tested in flight for the first time," Wang said.
"The capability and skills of the taikonauts and the
quality of their operations directly determine the result of the mission," Wang
To ensure full-time monitoring during the EVA stage,
China has added more ground monitoring stations and mobilized nine tracking
ships and 30 planes. "The number of systems involved in the mission is
unprecedented," Wang said.
The Shenzhou-7 crew had finished their last rehearsal
and a final check of the spacecraft, rocket and ground observation and control
system had been completed.
The three taikonauts met the press at the launch
center at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Shenzhou-7 is scheduled to land in the central
area of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China after its mission is
In 2003, China became the third country after the
United States and Russia to send a human into orbit. It followed with a two-man
mission in 2005.
Founded in 1958, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
is located in the arid Jiuquan City, Gansu Province, and is China's oldest
satellite launch center. The center is used to launch scientific experimental
satellites and retrievable satellites at lower, medium-range and higher orbits.
Wang Zhaoyao (C), spokesman with China's
manned space program, answers questions during a press conference held by
the headquarters of China's third manned space mission at the Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 24,
2008. China will launch its third manned spacecraft Shenzhou-7 from
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Thursday Sept. 25, and the launch
window is set between 9:07 p.m. to 10:27 p.m. (Beijing Time), according to
the headquarters. (Xinhua Photo)