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Concerns over space program dismissed
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Chinese space technology experts on Monday dismissed concerns about military purposes of China's manned space program, saying it was aimed at serving China's economic development.

"So far, China's manned space program hasn't carried out a single military task," said Cui Jijun, director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province.

Cui said Chinese scientists saw the manned space program as a scientific exploration and hoped it could help boost China's overall scientific level and innovation capability.

Cui did not disclose what scientific experiments Chinese taikonauts (astronauts) would conduct during the upcoming Shenzhou-7 mission, but said all the experiments would be for civil purposes.

The Shenzhou-7 spacecraft is scheduled for launch sometime from Sept. 25 to 30.

Six Chinese taikonauts, including three selected crew and three substitutes, have arrived at the launch center. One of the taikonauts will conduct a spacewalk during the mission.

A small satellite would be released after the Shenzhou-7 entered orbit to observe its flight and live broadcast video images.

Sheng Jie, deputy general designer of the Shenzhou-7 launch system, said the satellite was for civil scientific research to improve China's communication technology.

"The key part of this research is to make sure the small satellite keeps a safe distance from the Shenzhou spacecraft," Sheng said. Control of the satellite was a challenge for the space survey and control system.

In 2003, China became the third country after the United States and Russia to send a human into orbit. It followed with a two-man mission in 2005.

Chinese scientists had conducted experimental research into space life science, space materials and micro-gravity, using the Shenzhou spacecraft and recoverable satellites. Other trial tests included crop research and high-power astronomical observation in space.

(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2008)

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