Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, December 30, 2002

Senior Chinese Leaders Watch Spacecraft Launch

China launched its fourth unmanned spacecraft "Shenzhou IV" at 00:40am December 30 (Beijing Time) from Jiuquan Satellite Launching Center of Gansu Province. Senior Chinese leaders watched the launch of China's fourth unmanned spacecraft.


Senior Chinese leaders watched the launch of China's fourth unmanned spacecraft "ShenzhenIV" early Monday morning at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

They included China's top legislator Li Peng, Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo, and Jia Qinglin Wu and Jia are members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

Other high-ranking officials at the site were Cao Gangchuan, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission; Song Jian, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference; and Li Jinai, head of the General Armament Department of the People's Liberation Army.

A "Long March II F" carrier rocket blasted off at 00:40 a.m. (Beijing Time) and carried the "Shenzhou IV" into a preset orbit.

After watching the lift-off, Li Peng extended his congratulations on the successful launch to scientists and engineers, and military officers involved in the launch.

The successful blast-off was of great significance as it came just nine months after the launch of "Shenzhou III" in March this year, said Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body.

Li Peng said the success showed China's manned space science and technology was becoming increasingly mature, and it also indicated a marked improvement in the country's overall national strength, scientific and technological vigor and defense capability.

It also represented a massive impetus to China's manned space program, and encouragement to people of all walks of life in the country, said Li.

He went on to say that China should continue its efforts as planned to make its due contribution to the development and exploration of outer space for mankind.

He called on those involved in the space program to work hard for its complete success.

Before the launch, Li and other senior leaders were briefed about the space program by Li Jinai, commander in chief of the program. They also inspected the command and control center in Jiuquan, the general assembling and testing plant, and the launch site.

China's "Shenzhou" spacecraft made its maiden voyage to outer space on Nov. 20, 1999.

According to the country's manned flight program underway since1992, a number of unmanned test flights will be launched before Chinese astronauts are sent into space.

Experts say this is one of the important test missions of the whole program.

The "Shenzhou IV" spaceship was developed by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and the Shanghai Aerospace Technology Research Institute, both under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Company Group, in cooperation with other institutions.

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