"Today, October 16, 2003, is a day that every Chinese is proud of and is unforgettable. It is in this day that we Chinese make our dream true to accomplish the first manned space mission entirely relying on ourselves," said Mr. Xie Mingbao, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, at a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office at 10:30 am on October 16.
On the morning of October 16 (Beijing time), the Chinese-made Shenzhou V spacecraft successfully accomplished its mission including several scientific experiments after orbiting the earth 14 times, landing safely on the Amugulang grassland in Inner Mongolia at 6:23 am.
The following is how its mission was accomplished, step by step, as explained by Mr Xie at the press conference:
Astronaut Yang Liwei was finally chosen from a group of three about 16 hours before the launch.
Two hours and 45 minutes before the launch, Yang Liwei began putting on a special astronaut suit for working and living in space and doing technical preparation.
At 5:55 am on the morning of October 15, Yang Liwei entered the spacecraft.
587 seconds after lift off, the spacecraft separated from the propelling rocket, ready to go into orbit. This position was very close to the theoretical designated orbital position.
Flying around the earth by spacecraft needs about 90 minutes. While flying in its fifth circle, Shenzhou V conducted an orbiting shift, entering an oval orbit about 343 km away from the earth. This was also very close with the designed point in orbit.
During the orbiting of the spacecraft, the ground command and control center kept close touch with the astronaut. They got to know some feature parameters including heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and body temperature of the astronaut through remote monitoring physical parameters, and observed activities, face expressions and emotional changes of the astronaut through the screen. Meanwhile, staff of the ground command and control center and military leaders talked with the astronaut many times. The astronaut kept close watch on conditions of the spacecraft in implementing orders from the ground as well as his personal work state.
During the orbiting of the spacecraft, the astronaut took many pictures of the Earth using a digital camera and conducted extra orders under direction of the ground command and control center.
When the spacecraft was making its seventh circle round the Earth, the astronaut displayed China's national flag as well as the flag of the United Nations and completed other space experiments.
From launch to return, the astronaut stayed in space for a total of 21 hours and 23 minutes.
During its final orbiting, the land control center sent return data to the spacecraft. When flying over southwest Africa, the spacecraft began to execute return programs. Its first movement was a 90-degree turn to separate the orbital module. Its second movement was another 90-degree turn to make the rear forward, start the brake engine, slow down and descend in height. When descending to 145 km probably over Pakistan, the spacecraft separated its propulsion module.
When entering the atmosphere at a height of 10 km, the spacecraft opened a 1,200-square-meter parachute. When being only 1 meter to the ground, the spacecraft started four landing buffer engines to land slowly like a hovercraft. The landing speed, about 2-3 meters per second like jumping from an elevated stand, didn't hurt the astronaut at all. According to the report from the landing area, the difference was only 4.8 km between the theoretical and practical landing points.
When the re-entry module landed, the orbit module would still stay in orbit to conduct scientific experiments.
Xie said, "We'll stick to the three-step development strategy for manned space program approved by the Chinese government 10 years ago."
Following the successful mission of Shenzhou V, the next objectives to be achieved include: space walking, precise docking between spacecraft and orbit module, and the establishment of spacelab.
"The realization of these objectives will promote China's manned space technology to a higher level so as to make our due contributions to the development and peaceful utilization of space," said Xie.
(China.org.cn October 16, 2003)