Premier Wen Jiabao (R) stands beside the first picture of the moon, sent back from the lunar probe Chang'e I, in Beijing November 26, 2007. [Xinhua]
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao asserted in a passionate and inspiring speech on Monday that China has joined the select group of world powers with the capabilities to engage in deep-space exploration.
After unveiling the first picture of the moon surface taken by Chang'e I, China's first lunar probe, Wen said that the dream of the Chinese people for more than 1,000 years of flying to the Moon had begun to materialize.
Wen said that lunar probe was the third milestone in China's space exploration following the successes of man-made satellites and manned space flights.
The success, he said not only manifested China's rising national strength and technical innovation capability but also elevated the country's international status and cemented national cohesion.
"It showcases eloquently that the Chinese people have the will, the ambition and the capability to compose more shining new chapters while ascending the science and technology summit," he said.
Citing a letter from an overseas Chinese, Wen said that the farther the China-made satellite flew, the higher would the overseas Chinese hold their heads.
Chang'e I, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who according to legend flew to the moon, blasted off on a Long March 3A carrier rocket on October 24 shortly after Japan launched its first lunar probe, Kaguya, in mid-September.
The first high-definition image of the Earth rising was taken by Kaguya on October 14. With India and the Republic of Korea planning to send their own lunar probes into space, concerns of a space race in Asia have arisen.
Looking to the future of China's three-step moon exploration which will lead to a moon landing and the launch of a moon rover around 2012 and the taking-back of lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research around 2017, Wen said that the initial success had "blazed a new trail and accumulated valuable experience" for China to improve its overall capability in science and technology.
Firstly, China would continue to use major scientific and technological projects as a "tractive force" to drive along research and development as well as the application of new technologies.
"The success shows it's completely possible for China to make breakthroughs in priority projects and win decisive battles in the competition of new high technologies," he said.
Wen encouraged technicians participating in the project, which began in 2004 and cost 1.4 billion yuan (187 million U.S. dollars), to continue to strive for exploration and pursue technical innovations in a scientific and integrated manner.
Through this project, Chinese technicians have invented and grasped great core technologies and scored 100 percent quality assurance check on design and manufacturing.
"The integration of bold innovation and an earnest working style is the guarantee for the success of major scientific and technological projects," he said.
The Premier also said that China would continue to strengthen multi-departmental collaboration and give respect to knowledge and talents.
As the lunar probe researchers are no more than 40 years old on average while a number of people in their early 30's or 40's assumed the posts of chief designers and chief commanders, Wen said that the Chinese people would be very proud and gratified to see there was no lack of successors in the cause of aerospace.
In the future, he said, the Chinese people were expecting first-class research fruits based upon the first-hand exploration data collected by the lunar probe.