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Taikonauts Prepare for Spacewalk in Orbital Module

Two Chinese taikonauts have moved from re-entry module of Shenzhou-7 spacecraft to its orbital module, starting preparations for China's first space walk.

Two crew members are testing the functions of the control panels and charging the EVA (extra-vehicular activities) space suit.

After re-entry module hatch to be closed behind them, the taikonauts will put on extravehicular activity (EVA) space suits.

The two space suits, one US$4 million China-made feitian EVA suit and one Russia-imported Orlan suit, were assembled and tested on Friday.

The three taikonauts on the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft are in sound physical conditions, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) announced on Saturday noon. Their body temperatures and blood pressures are normal and there were no report of malaises, it said.

The taikonauts, headed by Zhai Zhigang, assisted each other in the medical check, which is the third and final check before the space walk, scheduled at 4:30 PM on Saturday.

The orbital module will be depressurized before one taikonaut opened the hatch and enter the outer space.

The planned space walk is expected to last for 30 minutes, during which the spacewalker will walk along a preset route and another taikonaut will stay in the orbital module for technical assistance. The third remains in the re-entry module.

Wang Zhaoyao, spokesperson with the manned space program, said the exact duration of the space walk, which will be live broadcasted, might be adjusted according to the physical condition of the taikonaut.

Once successful, China will become the third to master the EVA technology following the United States and Russia.

Besides spacewalking, the taikonaut will fetch a test sample placed on the exterior surface of the orbital module, according to Wang.

The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft took off from Jiuquan at 9:10 PM on Thursday, and is scheduled to land on the Inner Mongolia steppe on Sunday.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2008)

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