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From A-bomb to Shenzhou V Manned Spacecraft
2004/10/26
The safe landing of China's first spaceman on the grassland of north China's Inner Mongolia Thursday morning has made China the third country in the world that has successfully sent man into space following the United States and the former Soviet Union.

On the same day 39 years ago, the country exploded its first atom bomb, shocking the rest of the world. It was followed by the successful explosion of an H-bomb three years later. Then the first satellite that sang the tune of "Dong Fang Hong" (the east is red) declared to the world that China had mastered the artificial satellite technology.

The bombs and the satellite enabled China to snatch a commanding post in the height of the world's science and technology and enhance the strength of national defense, thus securing an important position in the international arena. The world-shaking events made China, this ancient civilization where the four major inventions of the world were born, able to stand aloft among the forest of nations with great self-confidence.

The achievements have testified to the correctness of the policy decisions the first generation of Chinese leadership headed by Mao Zedong took after sizing up the then international situation following the A-bomb dropped by the United States in Hiroshima, Japan.

"Without the A-bomb and the H-bomb and the satellite since the beginning of the 1960s, China would not have been called a big power that influences the world and China would not have had such an international position as it has today. These things reflect the capabilities of a nation and also the hallmark of prosperity of a nation and a country," said Deng Xiaoping, the late Chinese leader who masterminded the economic reform and opening-up.

As the Chinese people were still immersing in the success of the A-bomb, H-bomb and the satellite, a space dream was in the making. But the dream did not come true until the 1980s due to limited economic strength. The manned space flight program was not put on the agenda until March 1986, when China listed the manned space flight program in the hi-tech development program 863 against the background that the United States was engaging in a star war, Europe launched the "Eureka" program and the former Soviet Union launched the accelerated development strategy.

Since China put the first satellite on orbit, China launched more than 50 satellites in 15 categories, with a success rate of more than 90 percent and the satellite recovery technology reaching advanced world levels.

From the launch of the first rocket, the country has developed 12 types of rockets, which have sent 70 Chinese and foreign satellites into the low earth orbit, the geostationary orbit and the sun-synchronous orbit.

The space exploration project started toward the turn of the century. The country launched four unmanned Shenzhou spaceships before proceeding with the manned space flight.

Without the atomic and hydrogen tombs and the first satellite, there would not have been commercial satellite launch service, nuclear power plants, satellite-based communications and remote sensing or computer and microelectronics industries, said an expert who is directing China's manned space flight project.

Over the past four decades, the space program has attracted a number of China's top brains.

Among the first generation of Chinese space scientists and technicians, many returned from abroad. They included renowned physicists Qian Xuesen, Zhao Zhongyao and Peng Huanwu.

When asking about the reasons why they returned, Peng Huanwu, the first Chinese physicist who had obtained the professorship in the UK, said: "There is no need of stating reasons for the return. What needs stating reasons is not to return."

The R&D of space equipment has brought up a full generation of young scientists. They include the 27-year-old rocket trouble detecting system commander Liu Feng, the 29-year-old cosmonaut trainer Chen Xin, the 32-year-old spaceship environmental control and life insurance system commander Liu Xiulian and the 37-year-old spaceship system deputy chief designer Qing Wenbo.

Among the space program contingent, more than 70 percent are young people below 35. Among the designers and commanders of the manned spaceship, more than 80 percent are young people under 40.

"There is a full force of successors to China's space program," said Wang Yongzhi, 70-year-old academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering.

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