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Yang's Exploits Exalted at Rally

Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut, was conferred the title of "Space Hero" yesterday at a high-profile rally celebrating the country's first manned space flight.

Yang, 38, was also awarded a medal of honor for his space exploits. The rally, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, was organized by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the State Council and the Central Military Commission.

On October 15 Yang blasted into orbit aboard the Shenzhou V from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, northwest China.

Yang made 14 orbits of the Earth in 21 hours before safely landing in north China the next day.

The successful launch and return made China the third country after Russia and the United States to put a man into space, and marked the initial success of a manned space program launched in 1992.

Top national leaders joined thousands of other well-wishers at the rally, where Premier Wen Jiabao announced the decision by the Party, the central government and the military commission to honor Yang Liwei.

Jiang Zemin, chairman of the Central Military Commission, presented the medal and certificate of Space Hero to the astronaut.

Addressing the rally, President Hu Jintao praised Yang and expressed his respect and congratulations to the scientific staff, astronauts, military officers and technology specialists who were instrumental in the development and launching of the spacecraft.

The success has greatly inspired the Chinese people and boosted the country's social and economic development, the president said.

The successful space mission has also demonstrated the wisdom and creativity of the Chinese people, which will help position the country among the world's strongest nations, Hu added.

China will work with the international community for the peaceful use of outer space, said the president, who is also general secretary of the CPC.

Yang, who became an instant celebrity when Shenzhou V blasted off, was promoted from the rank of lieutenant colonel to full colonel of the People's Liberation Army before the mission. But he was not informed of the promotion until afterwards in order to avoid any distraction.

Good health, intelligence, amazing will power and eagerness to succeed, along with a happy, supportive family helped Yang realize his ambition to become China's first astronaut.

He passed stringent selection tests in 1996 and 1997 due to his excellent physical condition, including low oxygen resistance capability in high-altitude aircraft.

Yang received theoretical training on manned space flight in Beijing, including aviation dynamics, air dynamics, geophysics, meteorology, astronomy and space navigation.

(China Daily November 8, 2003)

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