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Concurrent feats expand China's exploration realm

By  Zhou Erjie (Xinhua)

09:30, June 25, 2012

BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) -- In a landmark day for China's scientific endeavors, two trios of explorers on Sunday concurrently achieved new feats -- one in the heavens and the other in the depths of the sea.

Three astronauts successfully carried out China's first manual space docking while three oceanauts dived to uncharted areas more than 7,000 meters below the sea.

The feats greatly expanded China's sphere of exploration and boosted the country's capability to take part in more international cooperation both in the sky and at sea.

More importantly, the human presence in both missions created new possibilities of human activities involving explorers from the world's most populous nation.

The successful manual space docking demonstrates the country's full grasp of essential space docking know-how. It is a stepping stone to building space stations, resupplying them, transferring astronauts and rescuing them. The manned deep sea dive also means Chinese scientists are now equipped to conduct experiments in almost all sea areas around the globe.

The concurrent feats have unleashed national pride among the Chinese people, echoing a poetic line uttered by Mao Zedong in the 1960s: "We can clasp the moon in the ninth heaven and seize turtles deep down in the five seas."

Happening one day after the traditional Dragon Boat Festival that marks the death of ancient poet Qu Yuan, the scientific endeavors also strike a more profound note of China's long-lasting curiosity of the unknown sphere.

In a poetic piece titled "Questions to Heaven" that date back more than 2,000 years, Qu asked more than 170 questions revolving around anicent Chinese mythology and religious beliefs on the creation and evolution of the universe.

Driven by such curiosity, the Chinese have made great scientific achievements to the mankind. The latest missions mark a new step in China's scientific development, which is in accordance with the country's growing national strength and economic clout.

In recent years, China has been investing heavily in scientific research and technological development to strengthen its innovative capacity. The proportion of gross domestic product spent on research and development grew from 0.9 percent in 2000 to 1.83 percent in 2011.

However, it should be pointed out that when put in a wider context of international scientific exploration, the achievements lag behind those of more advanced countries.

In deep-water and space exploration, China still has a long way to go before catching up with the United States, as it accomplished near 11,000-meter sea dive and a Moon walk about half a century ago.

Nowadays, the increasing complexity and cost of science programs require more collaboration among countries, especially against the backdrop of the continuing global financial crisis. Huge expenses and complex missions will soon probably be beyond the resources of any one country or even one regional bloc.

China has repeatedly said its space explorations are for scientific purposes and without military intent. An already tech-savvy China is ready to make further contributions to scientific exploration, not only for itself, but also for the sake of the entire world.

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