The Shenzhou V manned spacecraft, wholly designed and developed by China, is expected to blast into the space sometime this week, launching China as the third nation to send man into space after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
Gu Yidong, director-general and chief designer of the space application system under China's manned spaceflight program, told Xinhua that the manned space program's ultimate goal for China was to explore outer space and make a good use of the rich resources of space.
"With the further development of space technologies, outer space application will turn out to be an important driving force for China's economic and social development," Gu said.
Gu, who is also director of the Space Science and Application Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the universe was abundant with energy and resources, while mankind, on its way to self-improvement and development, must constantly seek new channels to acquire more resources.
Since the 1970s, many countries have conducted a series of experiments in space and achieved major breakthroughs in the research of key space technologies. A comprehensive satellite system, offering services in fields like telecommunications, navigation, meteorology and outer space exploration, has been established.
Gu pointed out that the United States had led the world in turning space research results into industrial technologies. These technologies, developed, tested and perfected through the US space programs, had been applied in US industries and helped bring some US$2 trillion in economic returns for the country.
It is expected that America's investment in its space industry will reach 500 billion to US$600 billion by the year 2010.
Since 1975, China has successfully launched 17 recoverable satellites. When those satellites orbited the Earth, not only a variety of space engineering experiments, but also experiments in other areas like agriculture, life sciences and space materials, were smoothly conducted.
As the world's most populous nation with a population of 1.2 billion, China relies heavily on its agricultural sector. As early as 1987, China's recoverable satellites started to carry plant seeds into orbit in a bid to breed new seed varieties with higher yields and better quality.
Gu also described outer space as an ideal industrial base, as the universe was very clean and almost without gravity.
The United States and Russia have both set up workshops in their space stations or spaceships. Products like semiconductors, optical glass, pottery and a variety of alloys have been produced in space.
The United States was capable of producing dozens of products in space, while Russia had conducted 14,500 experiments in space, Gu said.
In order to be able to share space resources with other countries as soon as possible, China was vigorously developing its manned space program, said Gu, adding that sending a man into the space was just the "first step" for China's ambitious space program.
"The second phase of our program involves more advanced technologies such as space rendezvous and docking, and will also include the establishment of an outer space laboratory system," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2003)