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Space not far from ordinary Chinese
( 2003-10-13 10:03) (Xinhua)

Wang Guoping, an easy-going taxi driver in Beijing, says proudly that he knows what space technology is about.

"I've got one here!" he said, pointing to a global positioning system (GPS) panel on his dashboard.

"It tells all the roads in Beijing and the position of this car. If there is a request and I'm nearest to it, the control center will immediately send me to the job," said Wang.

Knowledgeable though he is, as all taxi drivers in Beijing are reputed to be, Wang is unable to paint the big picture of space technology application in China.

That's the job of Gu Yidong, designer of China's manned space flight application system.

"The application of space technology can be found in a great many areas in China," he said.

"Satellite communications alone sustains more than 100 kinds of services, including telephone calls, data transmission, TV broadcast, distance education through satellite TV, mobile communication and distance medical treatment."

He said satellite TV and radio broadcasts now cover more than 90 percent of the country. Tens of millions of Chinese people have received education and training via educational programs carried by satellite TV and radio broadcasts.

In addition, satellite has been relied upon to locate fish shoals, assess crop yields and monitor calamities like sandstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and pollution.

Incomplete statistics show that since 1987, more than 800 species of plant seeds have been used in space seed breeding experiments aboard retrievable satellites. As a result, a number of high-yield crops have been developed, with yields up by a range of 10 percent to 20 percent compared with conventional crops.

Among these improved crops, space-bred rice contains eight percent to 12 percent more protein. So far, thousands of tens of hectares of land in China have been planted with such rice.

Liang Sili, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a space expert, has personally tasted a space-bred 500-gram green pepper.

"It contains more vitamins than conventional types. And it's very delicious," said Liang.

Yuan Jiajun, commander-in-chief of the spacecraft system of China's manned space flight program, said human beings are beginning to push the frontier area into space. Over the past 50 years, more than 4,000 spacecraft have been launched.

"Our lives today are closely linked with these space activities. And we are seeing just the beginning of it," said Yuan.

He said humankind can do a lot with resources in space, including creating a physical world unimaginable on earth, discovering new materials, conducting new experiments, gaining further insight into the origins of life and the universe and developing infinite living space and new life styles.

From land, to the sea and into the sky, every move into the new frontier has significantly pushed forward human civilization. With the first launch of Chinese astronauts into space, it is safe to say China is accelerating its race toward space.

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