China to launch its third manned space mission in 2008

China is aiming for its third manned orbital flight next year with two astronauts making space walks, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.

The Beijing Morning Post quoted Huang Chunping, chief consultant for China's manned launching vehicle system, as saying the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft would be ready this year, but work was still being done on the suits the astronauts would wear on the space walk, the AP reports.

"The main reason for the delay is that we wanted to be able to carry out the space walk completely dependent on our self-ability," Huang said.

Three astronauts will go into space and two of them are expected to make space walks, Huang was quoted as saying. He said no decision had been made on how long the walks would be.

Huang said the timing of the flight would depend on progress on finishing the space suit, and would not be timed for the Summer Olympics, which start in August 2008 in Beijing.

China's first manned space launch in 2003 made it only the third country to send a human into orbit on its own, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

A second space flight carrying two astronauts took place in October 2005.

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