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. China manned space flight set for late 2008: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 8, 2008
The launch of China's third manned space flight, the Shenzhou VII, has been set for late September or early October, state media Saturday quoted a leading space official as saying.

"Preparations for the mission are in full swing, and we're confident in its success," Zhang Yulin, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, told the Xinhua news agency.

The mission would include three "taikonauts" or astronauts, who would perform China's first spacewalk, said Zhang, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing meeting of the National People's Congress, or parliament.

"The mission is therefore more challenging than the Shenzhou VI," he said.

Space officials have previously set the launch of Shenzhou VII from the Jiuquan centre for autumn this year, after the Beijing Olympics in August.

Zhang's scheduling is the most precise date so far announced.

China successfully launched astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003, making it the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a man in space.

It sent two more astronauts into orbit in 2005.

The programme operates on a shoestring budget, but the government seeks to maximise the value of each new step into space, hailing it as proof of China's emergence as a power in science and technology.

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China Kicks Off New Space Launch Center Project
Beijing (XNA) Mar 07, 2008
The State Council of China has greenlighted the construction of a new space launch center in the southern island province of Hainan and the project has been kicked off, said a top provincial official on Thursday.

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