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China readies manned space flight

BEIJING, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Chinese scientists say they have completed final inspection of the rocket and other systems for the country's third manned space mission.

The Shenzhou VII space flight, which is set to include China's first spacewalk, is scheduled to liftoff between Sept. 25 and 30 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, the China Daily reported Tuesday.

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The mission will have a three-member crew including Zhai Zhigang, 42, who has been picked for the first spacewalk. All crew members were reported in good physical and mental condition.

The mission also plans to broadcast the spacewalk live.

The Shenzhou spacecraft will carry a small satellite, which can either be automatically released from the vehicle or by the astronauts during the spacewalk, to beam footage back to Earth.

The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying Shenzhou VII mission is a critical step in China's three-staged space program.

The country's first manned space program was completed in 2003 and the second two years later.

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