A virtual image of an
astronaut spacewalking outside the Shenzhou VII spaceship.
An airlock module for the Shenzhou VII spaceship and an
extravehicular spacesuit - key elements of China's first spacewalk
mission scheduled for later this year - have passed initial ground
tests, a top scientist said yesterday.
"Both the airlock module and the extravehicular spacesuit passed
the tests, which simulated the zero-gravity environment of space,"
Yang Baohua, head of the China Academy of Space Technology, said.
"This boosts our confidence in the spacewalk," he said on the
sidelines of an event to celebrate the academy's 40th
The academy designed all previous Shenzhou spaceships and the
moon probe Chang'e I, launched last year.
Although an exact date has yet to be set for the spacewalk, the
Shenzhou VII will be launched from Jiuquan, Gansu Province, with
three astronauts on board. It will be the latest milestone in
China's manned flight history.
The airlock module and extravehicular spacesuit are essential
elements of the mission and their design provided tough challenges
for the country's scientists.
The airlock is a pressure chamber linking the main body of the
spacecraft to the outside. It is a complex piece of equipment but
was not required on the previous six Shenzhou space flights, Yang
Similarly, the extravehicular spacesuit, developed by other
scientific institutes, is also technologically much more demanding,
compared with the intra-vehicular spacesuits worn by astronauts on
earlier missions. It must protect astronauts from dramatic
temperature changes and radiation in space, as well as provide them
with food, oxygen and equipment to communicate with the spaceship,
Fourteen candidates have been undergoing training for the Shenzhou
VII mission, including Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut, who was
aboard Shenzhou V
But the final three have yet to be named.
The spacewalk mission is expected to be broadcast live on
Yang Baohua said the spaceship's re-entry module is the largest
in the world in terms of its available space. Once it returns to
Earth, the orbital module will remain in space to carry out
A successful spacewalk mission will lay the foundation for a
space laboratory and space station, he said.
(China Daily February 21, 2008)