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Preparation for manned space launch going smoothly
( 2003-09-16 14:14) (Agencies)

Preparations are well under way for China's first manned space mission, widely expected to rocket an astronaut into orbit within the next few weeks or months, Science and Technology Minister Xu Guanhua said Tuesday.

Shenzhou I

"As far as I know, all the preparatory work for the launching of Shenzhou V is going very smoothly," Xu told a news conference.

He declined to say when China would try to become the third country to send a man into space after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Reports have said the launch will occur in the second half of this year and there is rampant speculation it could take place around the time of National Day on October 1.

"I think relevant departments will announce relevant details," said Xu.

China has also announced plans for probes of the moon and Mars.

Xu said Beijing's manned space initiatives would help spur hi-tech growth.

"On the one hand, we are paying close attention to the important achievements in space research and development our astronauts can make while in flight," he said.

"On the other hand, we are looking forward to these technologies playing an even greater role in various civil aviation fields."

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