BEIJING: All the systems of the Shenzhou-7 manned space program are going well as the mission, including China's first space walk, has begun to count down for Thursday's blastoff, officials said Wednesday night.
Engineers started Wednesday afternoon to load fuel into the Long-March II-F carrier rocket which will lift the spaceship into orbit late on Thursday. The launch has become irreversible after the loading, sources with the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu Province said.
The spaceship will carry Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng, all aged 42, for China's third manned space mission. They would enter the spaceship two hours and 45 minutes ahead of the launch time.
"It is a great honor for all three of us to fly the mission, and we are fully prepared for the challenge," Zhai told a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Liu said 10 years of working, studying and training together has contributed to the smooth cooperation among the trio.
The space environment will be "fine" during the mission, according to the Center for Space Environment Research and Forecast (CSERF) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The space environment tends to be stable and calm as the solar activities have been reductive, which will be favorable for the launch of the spacecraft and extravehicular activity (EVA), or space walk, according to the latest prediction of CSERF.
All five satellite tracking ships are now in position to support the mission, said Jian Shilong, director with the China Maritime Tracking and Control Department.
"The ships, four on the Pacific Ocean and one on the Atlantic, will track and support the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft."
The landing system finished on Tuesday its last drill to improve the searching speed and efficiency. "All the equipments work well so far," said Sui Qisheng, the landing system commander-in-chief.
The spacecraft is expected to return to the landing area in Siziwang Banner (county) of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Most of the searches and rescues will be conducted on helicopters. -- Xinhua