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Shenzhou VI successfully takes off
Updated: 2005-10-12 09:47

China's piecemeal but ambitious space program has made another big take-off on the morning of October 12, 2005, when a couple of new Chinese taikonauts are sent to the orbit by China's state-of the-art Long March rocket.

Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng lie in the Shenzhou VI capsule before the launch Wednesday October 12, 2005. China plans to launch its second manned space mission Wednesday morning. [China News Service]

The Shenzhou VI manned spacecraft blasted off with a loud launch noise for a multi-day orbital stay from its satellite launch center in Jiuquan in northwest China.

China's state-owned Central Television Station is carrying out a live coverage of the spacecraft flight, with images of the two taikonauts clearly shown to tens of millions of Chinese viewers.

Shenzhou VI was lifted into the space by a Long March carrier rocket at 9:00 am Beijing Time.

Fei Junlong, 40, and Nie Haisheng, 41, will make a great deal of experiments during their space journey.

"We have the confidence and ability to fulfil this glorious task. Our only wish is to make the mission a complete success," Fei said before boarding the craft. "Life in space is full of mysteries," Nie added.

"There is nothing to worry about," the two was quoted as saying before the launch as a light snow fell. "We will accomplish the mission resolutely. See you in Beijing."

Premier Wen Jiabao had a brief meeting with the two Chinese astronauts early Wednesday and wished them success.

"You will once again show that the Chinese people have the will, confidence and capability to mount scientific peaks ceaselessly," Wen said.

China's first man is space was Colonel Yang Liwei, who orbited Earth 14 times in the Shenzhen V craft on October 15, 2003.

China, the third nation to put a man into orbit, insisted ahead of the launch that its aspirations in space were strictly peaceful and that it opposes deploying weapons there. Space officials say they hope to land an unmanned probe on the moon by 2010 and launch a space station.

"We do not wish to see any form of weapons in outer space, so we reaffirm that our space flight program is an important element of mankind's peaceful utilization of outer space," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.

However, Washington sees China's space ambitions as an emerging security concern, with the potential for the Asian giant to boost its military capabilities and eventually challenge US dominance in space.

"US concern about China's space capabilities are first that China might eventually develop the ability to attack US satellites, because the US military is heavily dependent on them," said Phillip Saunders of the Pentagon-linked Institute for National Strategic Studies.

"Second, as China space capabilities improve, it will have the ability also to improve its other military options," Saunders told AFP.

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