China's Shenzhou VII manned spaceship is scheduled to lift off this year as the country's outer space expedition projects have gained momentum in recent years.
According to Xinhuanet.com, an online portal run by the Xinhua News Agency, Chinese astronauts will conduct their first ever spacewalk during the mission.
Fourteen reserved astronauts, including the first Chinese spaceman Yang Liwei, who carried out the Shenzhou V mission in 2003 and Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, Shenzhou VI flight crew in 2005, are in the crew selection for the VII mission.
The Shenzhou VII space shuttle is undergoing comprehensive tests at present, the report unveiled, and the carrier rocket for the mission, a Long March IIF rocket, is in the final assembly.
China has achieved astounding feats in its space exploration in recent years. After successfully completing manned space flights in 2003 and 2005, the country launched its first ever lunar probe satellite, Chang'e I, in October 2007, which is expected to orbit the moon for a year conducting a series of experiments.
(CRI January 2, 2008)