China delays Shenzhou-7 to 2008

by Chris Bergin

China has postponed the third of their manned space missions until 2008 – a delay of six months – due to the need for more preparation time on the space walk element of the mission.

Chinese media agency Xinhua report that a senior consultant to China’s space program confirmed the need for a delay on the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft launch date. It was originally going to be launched in 2007.

‘There is nothing wrong. We just need more time to prepare for the mission,’ said Huang Chunping, chief consultant for China’s manned launching vehicle system, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

The mission will be the most ambitious China has undertaken, as they try to gain speed on their aims to travel to the moon and Mars over the next 20 years. It will be their first mission to involve three astronauts – the previous two missions only launched with a two man crew.

With this third flight involving a space walk, China is trying to find solutions to a number of unsatisfactory tests on their spacesuit. The specific problems with their suit are unknown.

‘The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft is a complicated program,’ was all that Huang would say in relation to the problem, ‘which will involve careful design, tests, modification, trial production, assessment by experts and experiments before final production.’

Huang, commander-in-chief of the rocket system for Shenzhou-5, China’s first manned mission and National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), claims China is ‘fully capable’ of reaching the technological goals in finding a solution to allow the launch to go ahead in 2007.

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