Image: Spacewalk
China National Space Administration
Future flights of China’s Shenzhou spaceship will include spacewalks – a prelude to rendezvous and docking in Earth orbit. This artist's conception provides a cutaway view of the spacecraft's modules, showing how the trio of Chinese astronauts would be positioned.
updated 9/16/2008 11:46:50 AM ET 2008-09-16T15:46:50

Chinese authorities have named three astronauts to fly aboard its next manned mission that will include the country's first spacewalk, state media reported Tuesday.

The three-day Shenzhou 7 mission is set to blast off from the Jiuquan launch site in northwestern China on Sept. 25, with the spacewalk planned for either of the following afternoons, according to the Web site of the Communist Party's main People's Daily newspaper.

It identified the three astronauts as fighter pilots Zhai Zhigang, Liu Baiming and Jing Haipeng, all aged 41 or 42. It said Zhai, an unsuccessful candidate for the previous two manned missions, was the leading astronaut to carry out the 40-minute spacewalk, which China plans to broadcast live.

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

China launched a moon probe last year about one month after rival Japan blasted its own lunar orbiter into space.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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