Step towards building space lab
Third consecutive launch of spacecraft since 2003
Data relay trial of Tianlian-I satellite
to be conducted
JIUQUAN (Gansu): China successfully launched its third manned spacecraft on Thursday with three astronauts — or taikonauts — on board to attempt the country’s first-ever space walk.
Shenzhou-7 blasted off on a Long-March II-F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu Province. Onboard pilots — Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng — are expected to orbit the Earth for three days, when one of them would float out of the cabin about 343 km above the Earth.
China would become the third country in the world that is able to conduct extravehicular activity (EVA) in space following the former Soviet Union and U.S. President Hu Jintao witnessed the launch from the Jiuquan centre. He congratulated the experts and taikonauts on the Shenzhou-7’s launch, which was declared about 22 minutes after the lift-off by chief commander of the manned space project, General Chang Wanquan. “The successful launch marked the first victory of the Shenzhou-7 mission,” said Mr. Hu after General Chang announced the spacecraft entered the preset orbit.
He hailed the mission as “another feat in the Chinese people’s journey to ascend the peak of science and technology,” urging the staff to carry on their efforts to achieve a full-scale triumph.
It was China’s third consecutive launch of a manned spacecraft since it sent its first man into space in 2003. Two taikonauts flew in 2005.
Two of the trio would enter the orbital module, where one would put on domestically-made spacesuit Feitian and leave the module to take back test samples loaded outside, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the project. The other would wear a Russian Orlan suit and stay in the depressurized cabin for support, he added.
Other tasks include the release of a monitoring satellite and a trial of the data relay of the satellite Tianlian-I.
The mission is of great significance to the country’s future plans to build a space lab and a space station, said Zhang Jianqi, deputy chief commander of the project. — Xinhua