Chinese Astronauts Prepare for Spacewalk

Here’s something else the U.S. won’t be doing while we spend our billions elsewhere, competing with China’s manned space program:

China‘s three-man spacecraft shifted from an oval orbit to a more stable circular orbit 213 miles above Earth on Friday in preparation for the country’s first attempt at a spacewalk.

The spacewalk is scheduled to take place at about Saturday afternoon, although the exact timing depends on the readiness of equipment and personnel, said Wang Zhaoyao, deputy director of China‘s manned space program office. The event will be broadcast live on television, he said.

The planned spacewalk is seen as just the latest step in China’s ambitious space program:

Experts said this mission is the next logical step toward an expected Chinese space station and possible future moon landing. Having put people in orbit and returned them safely, China is planning spacewalks, then rendezvous and docking operations, then deployment of a relatively modest space lab followed by a more permanent space station.

Update 9/28/2008: And they’re back, after a successful spacewalk.