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Rocket man at end of 'Long March'
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-14 05:57

The successful launch of the Shenzhou VI spacecraft chalked up a record for not only the nation's manned space program, but also in the decades-long career of Liu Zhusheng, chief designer of the Long March 2F rocket.

When the spacecraft entered into orbit as planned Wednesday morning, Liu, 66, felt tears welling.

"This might be the last 'war' for me as a chief designer of the rocket system," Liu said. "I hope younger generations can take over my job to carry on the great undertaking."

Shortly after the landmark blast-off of the Shenzhou V spacecraft on October 15, 2003, Liu led his team to prepare for Shenzhou VI.

"I'm confident we have no problems in the design of the rocket system, considering we have dedicated our whole lives to rocket research," Liu said before the launch on Wednesday.

"The key is to rule out any possible error to ensure a safe launch."

Liu still remembered the excitement he had when Shenzhou I blasted off, powered by the Long March 2F rocket on November 20, 1999.

"In my eyes, a rocket is the most beautiful thing in the world," he said.

Always smiling, Liu is highly respected among his colleagues.

He is good at oil painting, particularly at drawing the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong. For him, his most cherished masterpiece is an oil painting especially for his wife which he drew using the lady in her youth as his model.

Liu also is known as a clock-repair expert in his residential community. His neighbours like to turn to "Lao Liu" or "senior Liu" for help when their clocks break.

However, he achieved national fame for his pioneering contribution to the strap and separation technology of carrier rockets.

The motivation behind his lifelong effort in the aerospace field is what Liu called his "three long-cherished dreams."

"I had a dream in my childhood to fly to the moon like the mythological fairy Chang'e," he said. Chang'e, known as the goddess of the moon in Chinese legend, swallowed an elixir stolen from her husband and flew to the moon.

Since he began his research in the field of aerospace after graduating from the Harbin Institute of Technology more than 40 years ago, the mystery of outer space made him dream of manned space flights one day, according to Liu.

"With my age growing, I feel the significance of the mission in space technology for the nation's future. My job can become a stimulus to fulfil the dream of turning the country into a world aerospace power," Liu said.

"I'm confident future generations can put spacecrafts onto the moon in the near future."

(China Daily 10/14/2005 page2)

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