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Taikonauts prepare for spacewalk in orbital module
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The astronaut is conducting adaptive training in the spacesuit.

The astronaut is conducting adaptive training in the space suit.

Two Chinese taikonauts have moved from re-entry module of Shenzhou-7 spacecraft to its orbital module, starting preparations for China's first space walk.

Mission leader Zhai Zhigang and member Liu Boming are testing the functions of the control panels and charging the EVA (extra-vehicular activities) space suit in the orbital module. One of them will stay in the re-entry module, and the other will move into the orbital module for the spacewalk, scheduled around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The two were allowed to start the preparation after a health check Saturday morning. Doctors at the Beijing control center said their blood pressure and temperatures were normal, and declared they were fit for the task.

The two space suits, one 4-million-U.S. dollar China-made Feitian EVA suit and one Russia-imported Orlan suit, were assembled and tested on Friday.

After re-entry module hatch to be closed behind them, the taikonauts will put on the suits. The orbital module will be depressurized before one taikonaut open the hatch and enter the outer space.

Although Zhai has been widely slated as the spacewalker, doctors insisted that the taikonaut to carry out the task will not be finalized until the last minute.

"We are closely observing their physical conditions, because at this moment, anyone of them could suffer space motion sickness and thus is not able to perform the task," said Li Yongzhi, director of medical department of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

"Even when the spacewalker is confirmed, we still need him to do a brief inquiry and check before he opens the hatch and leaves the orbiter," she said.

The planned space walk is expected to last for 30 minutes, during which the spacewalker will move along a preset route and another taikonaut will stay in the orbital module for technical assistance.

Wang Zhaoyao, spokesperson with the manned space program, said the exact duration of the space walk, which will be live broadcasted, might be adjusted according to the physical condition of the taikonaut.

Once successful, China will become the third to master the EVA technology following the United States and Russia.

Besides spacewalking, the taikonaut will retrieve a test sample placed on the exterior surface of the orbital module, according to Wang.

The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft took off from Jiuquan at 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, and is scheduled to land on the Inner Mongolia steppe on Sunday.

inner part of space suit

The inner part of space suit.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2008)

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