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China to conduct maiden space walk today


HONG KONG (BNS): One of the Chinese astronauts onboard the Shenzhou VII spacecraft, Zhai Zhigang will conduct the first space walk at 4.30 pm on Saturday.

Official spokesperson of the manned space programme Wang Zhaoyao said that the walk will last about 30 minutes. The whole process would be broadcast live on television, Wang Zhaoyao said.

“Excluding the opening and closing of the module gate, the real spacewalk may take about 20 minutes,” he said. The duration of the space walk might be adjusted according to the physical conditions of the astronauts.

“According to the schedule, the astronauts would finish testing the space suits at 1.00 am on Saturday. By then the third manned spacecraft would have completed 19 orbits around the Earth,” he said. Then the trio will begin 100-minute training in the orbital module before the space walk, Wang Zhaoyao said.

State-owned news agency Xinhua said that during the mission, astronauts would need to assemble and test the spacewalk suits, de-pressurise and re-pressurise the cabin, exit and re-enter the orbital module. “The spacewalk includes two tasks of spacewalking and fetching a piece of experimental material fixed on the exterior surface of the orbital module,” the official said.

According to the official, two astronauts began to unpack and assemble the indigenous Feitian spacesuit at 10:20 am on Friday in the orbital module while the other Jing Haipeng stayed in the re-entry module to keep an eye on the vessel operation.
As mentioned earlier, the astronauts will wear two space suits, including Chinese Fetian and Russian Orlan.

The three astronauts in space are having a good time since the Shenzhou-7 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu Province at 9:10 pm on Thursday, officials with the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) said.

Compared to the earlier astronauts, the trio is lucky to have hot and spicy food. “What's more, the Shenzhou VII astronauts need not worry for half-cooked rice as Nie Haisheng of Shenzhou VI mission. The food heater onboard the current spacecraft has a stronger electricity supply, which will ensure the rice, can be fully cooked.

Staff at the BACC told Xinhua that astronaut Jing was actually taking a nap. “The right place to sleep was the orbital module, where sleeping bags were placed,” the staff said.

On the success of the Shenzhou VII mission, China will join the ranks of United States and Russia to accomplish a spacewalk. This will also help Beijing to set up its own permanent space station.


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