It will blast off next year, with first space walk slated for 2008 China has finished assembling a satellite for an unmanned moon mission next year and is planning to carry out its first space walk by 2008. Sun Laiyan, head of the China National Space Administration, said yesterday the two tasks were among a number of targets China was trying to accomplish within the next five years. It is also giving priority in its five-year plan for space industry development to the development of nontoxic, pollution-free 'thrust carrier rockets capable of carrying near-Earth orbiters of up to 25 tonnes and geostationary orbiters of up to 14 tonnes'. Mr Sun said a larger carrying capacity could help China compete better in the international commercial satellite launch market. As for the first phase of the moon probes, Mr Sun said: 'Smooth progress has been made in the research and development of Chang'e I [the probe], and we have completed assembly of the satellite.' The goal of next year's moon probe is to 'test the technical feasibility and reliability of our technology', he said. The satellite will orbit the moon at an altitude of 200km, taking three-dimensional images and analysing the lunar surface. Mr Sun denied China had any intention of engaging in a space race, adding that the cost for the missions remained relatively low because the government's priorities were to boost economic growth and conditions in the countryside. But he added that becoming the third country to send an astronaut into space was a 'source of pride' for Chinese people. He said China had spent 19 billion yuan on the first five Shenzhou spacecraft, including the first manned vehicle, Shenzhou V. Last year's Shenzhou VI manned mission cost about 1 billion yuan, while next year's unmanned moon probe would be slightly more expensive, he said. The first phase of the moon probes will pave the way for an eventual landing on the moon, he said, declining to give a timetable. China was sending one or more astronauts on spacewalks from Shenzhou VII, probably in 2008 but possibly earlier. Shenzhou VII will also carry out spacecraft rendezvous and docking tests. In the long run, China might eventually send tourists into space, like Iranian-born American telecoms billionaire Anousheh Ansari, who paid US$20 million for a trip to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket last month. 'Once our technology is more mature, more reliable, there is this possibility,' Mr Sun said. China issued its second White Paper on its space industry yesterday, saying it is 'a strategic way to enhance its economic, scientific, technological and national defence strength, as well as a cohesive force for the unity of the Chinese people'. Mr Sun said China was drafting regulations to allow local and foreign firms to invest in the aerospace industry, which is now mainly controlled by the state.