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China Space Walk, Docking Planned

Chinesespace planners have outlined the objectives for the next several missions oftheir piloted Shenzhou missions. Next up is Shenzhou 7, China's third human spaceflight that will liftoff in 2008 and include a space walk.

Accordingto a February 24 report in China Daily, Shenzhou 8 is set to showcasethe ability to dock, with that expertise leading to China establishing its ownspace station.

Thisstep-by-step effort has been outlined by Wang Zhougui, director of China MannedSpace Flight Engineering Office during a recent lecture, according to ChinaDaily.

Wangwas quoted as saying that one or two astronauts would walk in space for roughlyone-half hour. Shenzhou 8's mission of docking in space would be launchedaround 2009 to 2011, he noted.

Independent means

Whilefar from fast-paced, China appears to be on a steady track to demonstratevarious space abilities.

Aftera succession of unpiloted Shenzhou shakeout flights, China carried out itsfirst piloted mission in October 2003, a flight that lasted less than a day.The solo pilot was Yang Liwei.

Twoyears later, China's second piloted mission in October 2005 was a two-personflight. The Shenzhou 6 craft carried Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, stayingaloft for five days.

Utilizedto launch the Shenzhou spacecraft is China's CZ-2F rocket, topped by an escapetower designed to pull the vehicle free in case of a booster problem. That nation'shuman space voyages depart from the sprawling Jiuquan Space Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province.

China is the thirdcountry to demonstrate independent means to carry out Earth-orbiting humanspace flight. The former Soviet Union flew the first human into Earth orbit,Yuri Gagarin, in 1961, followed by the U.S. orbital mission of John Glenn in1962.

Moon also target

China is also eyeing theMoon as a target.

China Daily reported last year that work continues onthat nation's Chang'e-1 robotic lunar orbiter intended for launch in 2007.

AChinese automated lunar lander would follow in 2012, with the nation's spaceengineers reportedly targeting 2017 as the time period for a robotic return oflunar samples back to Earth.

Accordingto some reports, China is also committed to a follow-on human voyage to theMoon.

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