JIUQUAN, China (AFP) — Chinese President Hu Jintao Thursday wished success to three astronauts about to embark on the nation's riskiest space mission yet, which will include a space walk.
"I have come to send you off, to wish you success," Hu said in a televised speech, standing in front of the astronauts as they sat in a row wearing full space suits.
The manned space mission, due to blast off Thursday between 9:07pm and 10:27pm (1307 and 1427 GMT), is China's riskiest as it includes the country's first ever space walk, to be carried out by airforce colonel Zhai Zhigang.
"You will wear the homemade Feitian space suit for the first time and carry out China's first extravehicular activity (space walk), which is a great stride for our country's space technology and development," Hu said in northwest China.
The China-made suit, which reportedly cost up to 160 million yuan (23 million dollars), will be tested for the first time in space, and is being touted as a major breakthrough for the country's space-exploration plans.
It weighs 120 kilograms (264 pounds), is made of "advanced synthetic fibres" and is so supple that an astronaut can bend over and pick up a coin while wearing it, Chinese state-run media reports have said.
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