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Chinese manned spaceshot set for 25 September

Third mission to include spacewalk

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China's third manned spaceshot is slated to lift off at 13:10 GMT on 25 September, New Scientist reports. The three-man jaunt will blast off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province atop a Long-March II-F rocket, following a six-month delay to the planned launch.

Huang Chunping, rocket systems consultant for the Chinese Manned Space Programme, told the Oriental Morning Post: "We will check the weather conditions to decide whether to launch as planned."

Huang added that a spacewalk "will take place after the craft has made five orbits".

In 2003, the communist state put it frst man into space. Yang Liwei spent 21 hours in orbit, earning himself national hero status in the process. In 2005, China successfully dispatched former fighter pilots Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng aloft in a Shenzhou VI capsule.

China's ambitious space programme ultimately encompasses putting a comrade on the Moon, although the powers that be have declined to be drawn on reports that they are planning to set foot on the lunar surface by 2020.

Last year, the Chang'e 1 spacecraft successfully sent back images of the Moon's surface, an acheivement which prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to declare: "The Chinese people have the will, confidence, and ability to constantly compose fine new chapters as we scale the peaks of modern science and technology." ®

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