China will send a manned craft into space before 2005 and preparations for the mission to the moon exploration are under way, a senior space official said yesterday in Beijing.
China successfully launched unmanned spaceships "Shenzhou" in 1999 and this year.
A leading scientist said several unmanned spaceship projections will be necessary prior to the launch.
"We must be sure that the astronauts are 100 percent safe in outer space after launching," said Liang Sili, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Sun Laiyan, vice-director of the China National Space Administration, said the state has forged ahead with the objectives of its moon exploration plan but did not go into detail.
China plans to launch three satellites for weather monitoring, oceanic study and earth resource exploration next year.
These are part of the country's five-year (2001-05) blueprint for the space industry.
"China has put the plan for developing the industry on the table," said Sun.
Sun said the state will integrate its space industry further into the world market to yield more social and economic returns.
Cooperation between China and the European Union, Russia, developing countries such as Brazil and other space powers will be strengthened as a result.
China will further its cooperation with the EU for progress of the "double star" project.
It is designed to observe and study the global response of the geospace plasma environment to solar activities, interplanetary disturbances and the dynamic process in the boundary layer of the magnetopause.
The state has earmarked vast funds for the protection of the space environment and the reduction of space debris resulting from space activities.
Sun addressed more than 100 officials, experts and entrepreneurs with a keynote speech at yesterday's ceremony marking the anniversary of the issuing of the white paper "China's Space Activities."
The State Council Information Center last year issued the white paper in which China outlined the state's achievements in space technology in the past 40 years, and the future objectives of the next 10 and 20 years.
"The five-year plan is based on the white paper," Sun said.
Experts said China should seize the chance to expand its application of space technology.
"For mankind in the 21st century, space application will become as essential as electricity and oil in the 19th century," said Liang Sili, the state's leading space scientist.
"We are just in the first year of the new century and my prophecy will come true."
Liang suggested China should step up its efforts in constructing infrastructure in outer space to facilitate information exchange among different satellites and ground stations.
"I particularly advise the country to develop its own global navigation satellite system, which will benefit the country and the world in many ways," Liang said.
(China Daily November 23, 2001)