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. Shenzhou Astronauts Arrive At Launch Center

The Shenzhou-7 manned spaceship, the Long-March II-F rocket and the escape tower are vertically transferred to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province Sept. 20, 2008. The transfer finished at 3:15 p.m.on Saturday, marking the final stage of the launching preparation.(Xinhua Photo)
by Staff Writers
Jiuquan, China (XNA) Sep 23, 2008
A panel of six Chinese astronauts arrived at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province on Sunday, making the last-minute preparations for the country's third manned space mission.

Taking a special flight to the remote center, three qualified spacemen and three substitutes said they had "full confidence to successfully accomplish the mission" after various trainings and tests.

The astronauts will pilot spacecraft Shenzhou-7 to carry out the mission during which one of them will spacewalk outside the capsule.

The spacecraft has been planned to be launched at an appropriate time between Sept. 25 and 30 after the spaceship, its carrier Long-March II-F rocket and the escape tower were vertically transferred to the launch pad on Saturday.

All the six astronauts prepared for Shenzhou-7 were once trained and tested at Jiuquan center more than two weeks ago when they had a live experience to enter the spaceship and learned the mission's whole process in a all-ready simulation.

The six spacemen now had moved to their special accommodation to be quarantined and to adjust their psychological conditions for the mission.

related report
Experts dismiss concerns over China's manned space program
Chinese space technology experts on Monday dismissed concerns about military purposes of China's manned space program, saying it was aimed at serving China's economic development.

"So far, China's manned space program hasn't carried out a single military task," said Cui Jijun, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province.

Cui said Chinese scientists saw the manned space program as a scientific exploration and hoped it could help boost China's overall scientific level and innovation capability.

Cui did not disclose what scientific experiments Chinese taikonauts (astronauts) would conduct during the upcoming Shenzhou-7 mission, but said all the experiments would be for civil purposes.

The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft is scheduled for launch sometime from Sept. 25 to 30.

Six Chinese taikonauts, including three selected crew and three substitutes, have arrived at the launch center. One of the taikonauts will conduct a spacewalk during the mission.

A small satellite would be released after the Shenzhou-7 entered orbit to observe its flight and live broadcast video images.

Sheng Jie, deputy general designer of the Shenzhou-7 launch system, said the satellite was for civil scientific research to improve China's communication technology.

"The key part of this research is to make sure the small satellite keeps a safe distance from the Shenzhou spacecraft," Sheng said. Control of the satellite was a challenge for the space survey and control system.

In 2003, China became the third country after the United States and Russia to send a human into orbit. It followed with a two-man mission in 2005.

Chinese scientists had conducted experimental research into space life science, space materials and micro-gravity, using the Shenzhou spacecraft and recoverable satellites. Other trial tests included crop research and high-power astronomical observation in space.

related report
Commander: ground team ready for Shenzhou-7 spacecraft launch
The chief engineer of the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft launch said the ground work for the mission has been completed and the team was confident of a successful lift-off.

A total of 6,000 staff on the ground team had spent months improving infrastructure and testing the functions of computers and software, said Cui Jijun, commander-in-chief of the ground operation team.

"The launch site has undergone an overhaul since last year to make sure it is safe and reliable," he told Xinhua on Monday.

Equipment like flow meters of rocket propellant, cranes and conveyor belts were replaced. Data files were created to simulate the countdown and launch phases. Plans for about 239 emergency scenarios have been drawn up.

"Judging from the preparations so far, we are confident that we will accomplish the launch successfully," said Cui.

The Shenzhou-7 is scheduled for a lift off sometime from Sept. 25 and 30 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province. The vessel, which is attached to the Long-March II-F carrier rocket, was moved to the launch pad on Saturday.

Six astronauts, including three selected crew and three substitutes, have arrived at the launch center. One of the trio will conduct a spacewalk during the mission.

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