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Taikonauts to carry out tether-free spacewalk
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Chinese astronauts will carry out untethered spacewalks during the Shenzhou VII mission. This was revealed by the spacecraft system's command-in-chief Shang Zhi on Tuesday, The Oriental Morning Post reported.

Compared to the twin-manned space mission Shenzhou VI, China's newest exploration into space has more stringent technological requirements as one of its three astronauts is scheduled to conduct a space walk.

The chief designer of Shenzhou VII Zhang Bainan said that "Shenzhou VII's functions and performance fulfill the comprehensive requirements of the space program." The craft has a domestically developed airlock module that will be used for the first time.

Command-in-chief Shang Zhi said China has prepared over 30 plans for emergency spacewalk scenarios, referring to the process as simple.

Chinese astronauts, known locally as Taikonauts, have only to press a special button to release the air from the airlock module in order to exit the spacecraft. After the space walk mission concludes, they simply return to the module and lock it directly.

Previously the activities of astronauts in spacewalks were limited due to their ties to the spaceship. However, with tether-free missions, astronauts still need to attach themselves to alternative systems when conducting extra-vehicular activities.

The research team that developed Shenzhou VII set out for the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday, and will start final testing of the spacecraft in a few days.

China successfully put two manned spacecraft into orbit in 2003 and 2005. Shenzhou VII, China's third manned space launch, is expected to be launched in October.

(CRI July 2, 2008)

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