China successfully launched the Shenzhou VII space mission, which is to feature the country’s first spacewalk, AFP reported. The launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province was attended by President Hu Jintao and other leading officials. Three astronauts are participating in the 68-hour mission, led by Zhai Zhigang, the air force colonel who will be conducting the spacewalk. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the mission was part of Beijing’s effort to "explore and make peaceful use of outer space." China is presenting the mission as a step toward developing a permanent space laboratory.