Chronology of space program

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The following are the major events in China's space technology development since the 1950s:

Oct. 8, 1956: China opens its first institute on missile and rocket research, the No. 5 Research Institute attached to the Ministry of National Defense, with Qian Xuesen, a Chinese scientist who returned from the United States, as the first director.

July 19, 1964: A biological rocket carrying albino rats is launched successfully from Guangde County in east China's Anhui Province, an important step forward in China's space exploration.

April 1, 1968: An institute for spaceflight-oriented medical engineering opens in Beijing, charged with conducting research into manned spaceflight.

April 24, 1970: China becomes the fifth country to send a satellite into orbit, as the DFH-1 scientific experimental satellite lifts off aboard a Long March rocket.

Nov. 26, 1975: China launches its first recoverable satellite, which returns to earth three days later, and becomes the third country able to operate recoverable satellites.

Sept. 7, 1988: China launches meteorological satellite FY-1A at Taiyuan launch base, north China's Shanxi Province.

April 7, 1990: A Long March CZ-3 sends AsiaSat-1 communication satellite into orbit, marking the start of China's commercial launch service.

July 16, 1990: China launches Long March CZ-2E, a cluster carrier rocket, laying a foundation for manned spacecraft launches.

1992: China lists manned spaceflight as one of its state projects, later named Shenzhou (Divine Vessel).

Nov. 20, 1999: China launches its Shenzhou experimental spacecraft for the first time and the re-entry module lands in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region the next day.

Jan. 10, 2001: Shenzhou-2 experimental spacecraft launches successfully and the re-entry capsule returns to earth on Jan. 16 in central Inner Mongolia after carrying out scientific research projects.

March 25, 2002: China sends unmanned Shenzhou-3 into orbit and after circling the earth 108 times, the craft returns to earth, landing in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on April 1.

Dec. 30, 2002: Shenzhou-4, also an unmanned spacecraft, also launches successfully.

Oct. 15, 2003: Shenzhou-5 blasts off into space from Jiuquan launch center, and China sends its first astronaut into orbit.

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