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Russian experts to support China's first spacewalk

JIUQUAN, September 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russian experts will have a role in overseeing the upcoming mission of Chinese astronauts, which will include China's first spacewalk, a spokesman for country's manned space program said Wednesday.

The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft with three astronauts on board is scheduled to launch Thursday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province, in the northwest of China.

The spokesman said the Russian experts would monitor the condition of the space suits, which were developed using Russian technology.

"We are also grateful to Russia for its active cooperation in the training of astronauts," the spokesman said, adding that good opportunities were opening up for further partnership.

The three-day mission peaking at 343 kilometers from Earth will include China's debut spacewalk by one of the astronauts. It was revealed on Wednesday that the spacewalk would last for around 20 minutes.

"The spacewalk will be made between the 29th and 30th orbits of Earth," a press release said.

If anything unexpected happens, the spacewalk will be delayed, and the mission will be extended to four days.

The spacecraft will be launched between 21:07 and 22:27 local time (13:07 to 14:27 GMT).

China, which has recently unveiled comprehensive space exploration plans, is one of only three countries in the world capable of independently launching manned spaceflights, the others being the United States and Russia.

The country plans to build its own orbital space station and establish a space laboratory by 2020.

In 2003 and 2005 the Shenzhou-5 and Shenzhou-6 spacecraft carried three Chinese astronauts into space.

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