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China succeeds in manned mission, eyes more space quest to benefit mankind
( 2003-10-16 21:02) (Xinhua)

China's billion-dollar manned spaceflight program, 11 years after its initiation, paid off Thursday when the country's first astronaut Yang Liwei safely touched down on the northern grasslands, bringing his 21-hour-23- minute space voyage to a perfect end.
The accurate landing of Yang's spacecraft, the home-made Shenzhou-5, at 6:23 a.m. Beijing time Thursday has secured China a niche in space as the third nation to independently send a man into outer space, following the former Soviet Union and the United States.
"China's first manned space flight is a complete success," announced Li Jinai, director-general of China's manned space program, at 6"China's top authorities, including the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Council and the Central Military Commission, sent an instant congratulatory message, which was read out by Premier Wen Jiabao who witnessed the landing at the command and control center.
"This is of a practical and far-reaching historic significance in China's endeavor to promote the development of its high-tech industries, to enhance the national economic and technical levels and defense capabilities, and to increase the rallying power of the Chinese nation," says the message.
The 38-year-old Yang, a fighter pilot turned astronaut who traveled over 600,000 km in space as his spaceship orbited the globe 14 times at a speed of 90 minutes per round, became a hero of the Chinese nation overnight.
"He has surprised everyone with his excellent performance in space. He is both a space hero and a national hero of China," said a senior space official in Beijing.
The lieutenant colonel of the People's Liberation Army, a bit pale yet in high spirit, stepped out of his re-entry capsule with a smile and kept waving to a cheering and dancing crowd of several hundred people on the spot to welcome him back.
"It is a splendid moment in the history of my motherland and also the greatest day of my life," said Yang in his first words on the ground. After an on-site health check, Yang was flown to the capital Beijing by a special plane.
While the world is yet to compliment China's latest accomplishment in space, the country has announced it will continue with its space quest, but only for the well-being of mankind.
"The manned space flight is just the first step," said Xie Mingbao, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, at a Beijing press conference held just 4 hours after the smooth landing of Shenzhou-5.
"More steps are to follow, including space walk, space rendezvous and docking, as well as building a space lab and a space station," added Xie, who disclosed that the next Shenzhou mission would be launched within one or two years.
Meanwhile, Xie also conceded that China still has a long way to go before it could stand shoulder to shoulder with Russia and the United States, which had sent their astronauts into orbit more than four decades ago.
"The United States and Russia are much more experienced than we are, and we're quite willing to learn from them," he said, adding that China would like to cooperate with any other country in space technology on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
Luan Enjie, director of the China National Space Administration, said that the successful manned space mission was not only a " milestone in China's space undertakings," but also a "significant contribution to the peaceful exploration and utilization of space resources."
"It is our principle to explore outer space for the benefits of the entire human race and to utilize space in a peaceful way," said Luan, also deputy director-general of China's manned space program.
As an integral part of the international space force, the Chinese space workers will make due contributions to the development of human civilization and mankind's space exploration, said the director.
"The Chinese are going to space for the peace and progress of mankind," Yang the astronaut had stated in a written message prior to his mission, which was released by the media after the mission' s success.
While orbiting the globe, Yang in his capsule also displayed side by side the national flag of China and a United Nations flag, "to signify China's persistent stand for peaceful exploration and exploitation of space," 

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