Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, October 10, 2003

China's first manned spacecraft to blast off next week

China plans to launch its first manned spaceflight at a proper time between Oct. 15 and 17, said an official in charge of the country's manned spaceflightprogram on Friday. Now preparations for the launch are progressing smoothly.


China is scheduled to launch its first manned spacecraft at an appropriate time between Oct. 15 and Oct. 17, a leading official in charge of the country's manned spaceflight program announced on Friday.

The official said that the launching of "Shenzhou" V will be undertaken by the Long March II F Rocket at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province. After completing the planned flight, the spacecraft will land at the predetermined region.

The astronaut crew for this landmark project in China's space history has been selected through strict examination, and comprehensive drills have been completed successfully at the launching site.

After four unmanned space experimental flights, the basic technological condition of all systems and the project as a whole to meet the requirement of manned space flight has undergone comprehensive examination and has been confirmed.

In addition, the research, experiment and organizing and directing systems conforming to the requirement of high degree of safety and reliability in manned space flight have been established. All these have laid a solid foundation for China's first manned space flight.

Timeline of China's Space Program
China formally launched its official space program in September 1992.

November 20, 1999 saw the first experiment craft, Shenzhou I being successfully launched.

On January 10, 2001, the unmanned spacecraft, Shenzhou II, returned safely to earth.

On March 25, 2002, another unmanned spacecraft, Shenzhou III, was launched and returned safely on April 1, 2002.

On December 30, 2002, the Shenzhou IV unmanned craft was launched and returned to earth on schedule from its seven-day flight. It is the highest caliber test craft in the Chinese space program to date. The successful launch and return of "Shenzhou IV" shows China' s technology for manned flights is becoming increasingly mature, which lays a solid foundation for eventually sending up manned flights.

Currently, preparations are well under way for China's first manned space mission, known as Shenzhou V, widely expected to rocket an astronaut into orbit within the next few weeks or months, said Science and Technology Minister Xu Guanhua on September 16, 2003.

By People's Daily Online

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