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Launching success bases on previous trials
( 2003-10-16 05:23) (China Daily)

The launch of Shenzhou V carrying the first Chinese-trained astronaut into outer space is the realization of a dream cherished by the Chinese people and their leaders for all generations to cherish.

Before the launch of Shenzhou V spaceship, China carried out four unmanned space flights, which laid the foundation for yesterday's manned flight.

At 6:30 am on November 20, 1999, a Long March (LM) 2F rocket soared into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Northwest China's Gansu Province with a Shenzhou I atop.

The re-entry module of Shenzhou I landed in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 3:41 am the next day, marking the end of the 21-hour flight.

The success of the launch and landing of Shenzhou I mission was the first and important step to realizing China's ambitions for a manned space flight.

The second unpiloted space flight was made on January 10, 2001, testing how well the entire system worked.

This time, the launch in Jiuquan of a Shenzhou was a standard spaceship basically identical to a manned craft. It carried nearly 100 pieces of equipment, including space sensing, life sciences and space material, and astronomy devices.

The orbital module of the spaceship remained in space along an orbital path for nearly six months and a large quantity of information and data was collected.

The re-entry module landed in central Inner Mongolia on January 16 as scheduled after 108 earth orbits.

The system architecture of the spaceship was expanded and its technical performance improved compared with its predecessor.

On March 25, 2002, Shenzhou III was sent to space from the same launch site equipped with escape and emergency assistance systems for astronauts, with an improved parachute system. Redundancy techniques were adopted for the spaceship's control systems, and metabolic simulation equipment, human physical monitoring sensors and dummy astronauts were installed aboard the spaceship.

The orbital module orbited the earth for half a year in outer space, with a number of space science experiments conducted.

The last unmanned spaceship launched before Shenzhou V was Shenzhou IV, which was carried into orbit on December 30, 2002.

The mission was a success with the landing of the craft in central Inner Mongolia on January 5 after the completion of a series of tests in space science and technology.

Shenzhou IV was identical to manned spaceships except there were no men aboard.

All the systems for manned space flight, including an astronaut system and life-support sub-system, were fitted on the spaceship and tested.

Apart from satisfying results, the four unmanned flights also exposed some problems and this helped researchers solve such problems and make improvements.

Before the launch of Shenzhou I in November, 1999, it was discovered the rocket and the craft could fail to detach from each other when the rocket reaches a certain height and finish its work.

To hedge against such a possibility, it was demanded the craft should have a function by which astronauts could control detaching.

The solution was complicated because the order should be sent from the craft to the rocket and supported by an independent power supply.

The problem could not be solved solely by the craft system itself. Support from the rocket system was also needed.

Was it necessary to add such a function to hedge against such a possibility, which was actually an one-in-ten-thousand chance? Many researchers doubted.

The answer was "yes.'' Qi Faren, chief designer of Shenzhou spaceship, said decisively that anything that could ensure the success of the launch and the safety of astronauts had to be done.

The solution was later achieved by the joint efforts of the craft research team and the rocket research team.

China abounds in fairy tales related to outer space, one about a woman of surpassing beauty flying to the moon after taking some miraculous medicine, where she stays as the Goddess of Moon.

The goddess, named Chang'e, has been a most popular theme in traditional Chinese painting, poetry and drama.

Nevertheless, it was until October 4, 1957 did the Chinese people and their leaders come to realize that they needed to translate such fairy tales into reality.

On that day, an aluminum ball 58 centimetres in diameter was sent into outer space by the former Soviet Union.

It was on that day late Chairman Mao Zedong declared that China should make its own manmade satellites.

After that, China lost no time to pool its resources for research of space technology. Pioneering the endeavor were research institutes and universities in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Tianjin and other major cities.

Under plans worked out by a team of top-notch experts, China was to launch space exploration rockets first, followed by launching of satellites up to 200 kilograms in weight and then satellites weighing several tons.

But, before long, these plans were derailed because of a nationwide famine during 1959 and 1961.

Deng Xiaoping, then general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said that satellite launching would not correspond to the national strength when the Chinese population, then numbering 700 million, were hungry.

China's space exploration plans were derailed, but were not given up. On February 19, 1960, the very first rocket designed and built exclusively by China was launched somewhere near Shanghai.

The rocket, in fact a crude prototype, soared only eight kilometres high before it fell to the ground.

Despite that, it is recognized as representing the first step, the most crucial step, taken by China in a long march toward outer space.

On April 24, 1970, China sent its first man-made satellite into orbit, indicating that it had entered the space era.

In March 1986, four most prominent Chinese scientists proposed to Deng ways of developing high technologies in China.

Deng, who took the helm of China after Mao died, responded positively to the proposal that was to be dubbed as the 863 High-Tech Programme.

The 863 High-Tech Programme injected life into the country's space exploration endeavor.

At a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on September 21, 1992, then-president Jiang Zemin called for "determined efforts'' to develop manned space flight. This, he said, would be important to the country's political, economic, scientific and technological developments.

And China's manned space flight programme was kicked off then.

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