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China counts down to third manned space launch

China, still patting itself on the back after a hugely successful Olympics, will launch a three-man space flight this month, with all systems already in final preparation, state media said on Sunday.

world Updated: Sep 07, 2008 09:04 IST

China, still patting itself on the back after a hugely successful Olympics, will launch a three-man space flight this month, with all systems already in final preparation, state media said on Sunday.

China in October 2003 became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It sent two more astronauts on a five-day flight on its Shenzhou VI craft in October 2005.

This month's launch, including a planned space walk, would be between Sept. 25 and 30 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwestern Gansu province, Xinhua news agency said, quoting a spokemsan.

"All the major systems involved in the launching are now in the final preparation," a launch centre spokesman was quoted as saying. "The main tests for the spacecraft, the Long-March II-F rocket, suits for the space walk and a satellite accompanying the flight have also been finished."

The crew had conducted drills and were in good physical and mental state, the spokesman said.

Previous reports in Chinese state media had said the launch would be in October, possibly during the National Day holiday.

Last year, China sent into orbit its first lunar probe and its longer term goals include eventually establishing a space station and landing on the moon.

China's space programme has come a long way since late leader Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China in 1949, lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space.