Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Manned Chinese space station expected within 15 years

AFP , BEIJING

China will launch its own permanent manned space station within 15 years, but does not plan to send a man to the moon, the chief designer of the country's space program was cited as saying yesterday.

Wang Yongzhi (王永志) also revealed that China's manned space program has guzzled 18 billion yuan (US$2.18 billion) over the past 11 years.

Under the program, China will construct a permanent manned space station, expected to take 15 years, the Beijing News reported him as telling some 100 high school students from Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau.

But due to financial reasons, China's lunar probe will not send an astronaut to the moon, Wang said.

This is in contrast to previous statements from Chinese officials suggesting the country was hoping to land an astronaut on the moon at some point within the coming decades.

No further details were provided but China gained invaluable expertise and experience from the country's first manned space flight, when astronaut Yang Liwei (楊利偉) orbited the Earth 14 times in October last year.

It put China alongside the US and the former Soviet Union as the only countries in the world to send a man into orbit.

Currently, the only manned space station is the International Space Station (ISS), a 16-nation project that includes Canada, European Space Agency, Japan, Russia and the US, but not China.

As well as its space station ambitions, China has also detailed plans to launch a lunar satellite in 2006 and land an unmanned craft on the moon in 2010, while another unmanned craft will collect lunar dust in 2020.

Its next manned space mission, the Shenzhou VI, will be launched next year on a flight to be piloted by two astronauts, state media said earlier this month. The two astronauts will also leave the space capsule and descend into the orbital module where they will conduct experiments, Shen Faren (戚發軔), the chief designer of Shenzhou, was quoted as saying.

China's desire to compete in space with other world powers has become a mammoth undertaking.

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