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China Prepares 2 Groups of Astronauts for Shenzhou VII Mission

China has confirmed the six aeronauts, divided into two groups, chosen for its third manned space flight, Shenzhou VII mission in October, Beijing Daily reported on Wednesday.

Li Jian, a director from Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC), said the three taikonauts in the first group will be preferred for carrying out the Shenzhou VII mission, and there are also three taikonauts in the back up team.

The Shenzhou VII spacecraft will fly for five days in an orbit of 341 kilometers above the earth. Chinese astronauts will take one-hour spacewalk there and set out a small satellite.

Now the Shenzhou VII spacecraft has been transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu Province. The center is carrying out conjunction matching experiments for the spacecraft.

Zhang Bonan, chief designer of the Shenzhou-VII Spacecraft, said Chinese scientists have prepared more than 30 sets of plans to ensure the safety and quality of the product.

Comparing to Shenzhou VI spacecraft, the Shenzhou VII, carrying three astronauts, will carry out a spacewalk mission. During the flight, astronauts will also do experiments on some new satellite communication technologies.

Shang Zhi, chief commander of the Shenzhou-VII space mission, said the key point for this flight is getting out of the spacecraft cabin. There are two air-lock doors in a special module imbedded between the return-module and the orbital module.

After putting on outer spacesuits, astronauts will seal the first door and discharge air pressure in the orbital module. Only when the air pressures inside and outside the spacecraft reach a balance can they open the cabinet door to get out. They have to carry out the same procedure in reverse on their way back in.

China has prepared two kinds of outer spacesuits for taikonauts for the spacewalk mission. One was made using China's own technologies, and another was bought from Russia. The country will make the final choice as the space mission nears.

The Shenzhou-VII mission will be the first flight during China's second phase of its manned space program, after China sent its own astronauts into space. Setting up a space station is the next step for Chinese space scientists.

( July 16, 2008)

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