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China counts down to manned space mission

China will launch its third manned space mission in October with a crew of three, state media said on Thursday of the latest milestone in an ambitious space program.
/ Source: Reuters

China will launch its third manned space mission in October with a crew of three, state media said on Thursday of the latest milestone in an ambitious space program.

China became only the third country to put a man into space using its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It sent two astronauts into space in October 2005.

"The Shenzhou VII manned space mission will be carried out at an appropriate time in October this year," Xinhua said, quoting a spokesman for the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

A three-member crew and a back-up team had been confirmed, Xinhua said.

One of the astronauts would conduct a space walk, unprecedented for Chinese, and would carry out "relative scientific experiments," the spokesman was quoted as saying.

Shenzhou means "divine vessel" in Chinese and is also a homonym of a poetic reference for China — "divine land."

China launched its first lunar probe, the Chang'e 1, named after a mythical goddess who flew to the moon, in October 2007.