China confirms third space mission will launch late today
Agence France-Presse (来源：英语论坛 http://bbs.englishcn.com)
China's third manned space mission, which will include the first space walk by a Chinese astronaut, will blast off late today, a senior official confirmed.
The Shenzhou VII spacecraft, carrying three astronauts, will lift off from the Jiuquan launch center in northwest China, said Wang Zhaoyao, spokesman for China's manned space program.
The launch is scheduled for between 9:07 p.m. and 10:27p.m., Wang told a press conference yesterday.
The craft - its name means "Divine Vessel" - will then move into orbit at an altitude of 373km for the space walk, which is expected tomorrow or Saturday.
Wang warned that this mission was much more challenging than the previous two manned space flights, in 2003 and 2005, because of the space walk.
"It is difficult to simulate the process of extra-vehicular activities completely on the ground and some of the newly developed products are to be tested in flight for the first time," he said.
"The quality of the astronauts' operations directly determine the result of the mission."
One astronaut, whom government websites have identified as 42-year-old air force pilot Zhai Zhigang, will test a new Chinese-made spacesuit on the space walk.
"One astronaut will get out of the cabin and bring back test samples loaded outside the module," Wang said.
A second astronaut will join Zhai in a decompressurised orbital module during the maneuver, expected tomorrow or Saturday.
Zhai's backup is not due to leave the orbital module but will do so in case of any possible malfunction of the spacesuit, which reportedly cost up to 160 million yuan (US$23 million).
"After the extra-vehicular activity is completed, the spacecraft will release a small satellite," Wang said. He did not give details of what the satellite was for.
The Shenzhou VII is scheduled to land in the northern Inner Mongolia region after the mission - due to last around 68 hours - is completed.