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China's first space man promoted
( 2003-10-20 15:15) (Xinhua)

China's first astronaut Yang Liwei, who returned to Earth on Oct. 16 after a historic manned space mission, has been promoted to the rank of full colonel, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sunday.

His promotion was not announced in public by the Astronaut Team of People's Liberation Army, the country's armed forces, although the promotion decision was made well before his space mission, the newspaper said.

The promotion decision was made for his excellent performance as a member of the team during recent years.

His superiors decided not to inform Yang of the decision as they thought it might affect his mood as the manned space mission was approaching.

In the picture published in the Sunday's edition of the newspaper, Yang was shown in a military uniform with three stars on each shoulder board, one star more than that for his previous rank of lieutenant colonel.

Yang, 38, became an instant hero in China after he landed safely from his 21 hour spaceflight, which began on Oct. 15.

Soon after the landing, Yang was flown to the Beijing's Space City, where he works and lives much of the time. Medical checks at the landing site and later in Beijing passed him as perfectly fit.

Born to a family of teachers in 1965 in Suizhong County, northeast China's Liaoning Province, then the country's leading industrial center, Yang had a happy and tranquil childhood.

He was intelligent as a child and a good team leader of his playmates, his parents recalled.

Yang won many prizes in maths competitions.

In 1983, Yang was recruited by the No. 8 Aviation College of the Air Force of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and became a fighter pilot after graduating with a bachelor's degree. He was a straight A student in every subject during his four year training.

He became an attack aircraft pilot in the air force, and he was rated the elite of his air force division.

As a fighter pilot, Yang had 1,350 hours of flight experience. He was chosen, with 13 others, from among 1,500 pilots for space flight training.

Yang passed China's stringent astronaut selection tests in 1996 and 1997 with excellent physical condition, including low oxygen resistance capability in aircraft 10,000 meters above the ground.

During the first two years of training as an astronaut, Yang said he never went to bed before midnight in order to be the best.

As China's first manned space launch drew closer, Yang was among the three finalists chosen for the maiden voyage.

In order to familiarize himself with sophisticated operations, Yang put all the charts on facilities inside the capsule on the wall in his dormitory.

He also video-taped the equipment and structure of the capsule, and recorded the footage on a video compact disk on its own so that he could watch it in his spare time.

During the last professional technical tests, Yang did identified and remedied all the "faults" his instructors had set up.

His instructor would ask him after each test whether he had made any operational errors, and he always answered confidently, " No errors at all".

During five tests of normal flight procedures, he got 99 scores out of 100 in two and full scores in three tests.

Su Shuangning, director-general and chief designer of the astronaut system under China's manned space program, described Yang as a sober-minded person with a "superb capability for self- control".

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