Chinese astronaut to conduct inaugural spacewalk in October

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New Delhi, June 13 : China has announced the launch of its historic third manned space mission, which would take off in October, and would involve the first time that an astronaut from the country conducts a spacewalk.

The spacecraft, which will carry three astronauts, has been named Shenzhou VII, which means "divine vessel" in Mandarin.

"The Shenzhou VII manned space mission will be carried out at an appropriate time in October this year," said a spokesman for the national space agency.

Ground tests have been completed and the spacecraft is ready for flight.

The members of the crew, as well as a back-up team, have been selected, but their names have not been unveiled.

One member of the crew is expected to become the first Chinese "taikonaut" to conduct a spacewalk - a mission in which the astronaut fully or partially leaves the spacecraft.

The crew members have completed their basic training for space flight. Further training will focus on skills specifically related to the spacewalk, or "extravehicular activity".

According to the mission plan, two of the astronauts will enter an airlock module of the spacecraft in order to make preparations for one of them to conduct the spacewalk.

The astronaut will carry out scientific experiments in space, said the spokesman.

Completion of a successful spacewalk is a crucial step toward establishing a space laboratory or station, according to Qi Faren, former chief designer of the Shenzhou spacecraft series.

China has not announced a specific timetable for establishing a space station.

But according to Wang Yongzhi, former chief designer for the space program, they hope to build a space station by 2020. That would constitute the third and final phase of China's manned space program.

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