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All Systems Go for China's Manned Space Launch


China says all systems have passed through final preparations and are ready for the country's third manned trip to outer space, which is scheduled to launch Thursday night. One of the three astronauts on board will be the first Chinese to walk in space. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Three Chinese astronauts met with reporters Wednesday, one day before they are due to launch into outer space in the Shenzhou 7, which means "sacred vessel" in Chinese.

Astronaut Jing Haipeng says China is ready to impress the world.

Jing says he and his fellow astronauts have confidence, determination and capability to take the first step in outer space for the Chinese people.

Astronaut Zhai Zhigang says the mission marks a historic breakthrough in China's manned space program.

Zhai says it is a great honor for him to represent China as an astronaut.

This is China's third manned mission to outer space. China sent up its first Shenzhou mission in 2003.

Chinese authorities say the Shenzhou 7 space ship is due to launch Thursday night, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch center in the western province of Gansu. It will orbit the earth at an altitude of 343 kilometers.

The deputy director of China's manned space engineering office, Wang Zhaoyao, says the highlight of this mission will be what is called extravehicular activity, or EVA, which is better known as a spacewalk.

Wang says one of the Chinese astronauts will conduct the spacewalk and recover experimental sample devices. The mission's other tasks include the release of a small monitoring satellite and satellite data relay trials.

The astronauts will be wearing either a Chinese-made Feitian space suit or a Russian-made Orlan suit.

Wang called the Shenzhou mission "an important event" in the history of manned space flight cooperation between China and Russia.

Meanwhile, China is also well on its way to the moon. The country last October launched its first ever lunar probe, called the Chang-e-One, which is due to be in orbit for about one year.

At the time of the launch, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Chinese people have been dreaming of flying to the moon for more than 1,000 years. He said the success of the Chang-e-One mission will elevate China's international status and, in his words, "cement" national cohesion.

China plans to send a mission to the moon in 2012.

The launch of the Change-e-One came shortly after Japan launched its first ever lunar probe. India is expected to launch its own lunar probe later this year.

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