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14 vie for 3 space seats
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Fourteen astronauts, including China's first three taikonauts, are now training and competing for places on the nation's third manned space mission in October.

Yang Liwei, the nation's first taikonaut, and Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, the second batch of taikonauts, are now training with 11 others, all hoping to be one of the three taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou VII, China News Service reported today.

The Shenzhou VII taikonauts will walk in space for the first time, the report said. Each move will be broadcast live, Pang Zhihao, a researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology, said in a previous news report.

The taikonauts will perform work outside the capsule such as installing equipment and "tightening screws," according to previous stories.

China launched its first unmanned experimental spacecraft in November 1999 and the Shenzhou V spacecraft, with Yang aboard, was launched on October 15, 2003, when China became the third country after the United States and Russia to send a man into space.

The Shenzhou VI spacecraft completed a five-day flight with two taikonauts on board from October 12, 2005, the first time China put two taikonauts into space.

China's first moon probe, Chang'e 1, blasted off on a Long March 3A carrier rocket on October 24 last year in Sichuan Province, marking the first step of the nation's decade-long moon plan, which will lead to a moon landing and launch of a moon rover about 2012.

In the third phase, scheduled for 2017, another rover will land on the moon and return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research.

(Shanghai Daily January 2, 2008)


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