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China Unveils Landmark Space Program
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The Chinese government has unveiled an ambitious blueprint for developing space science that includes the launch of the country's first astronomy satellite.


The satellite will carry a "hard X-ray modulation telescope," which is being developed by Chinese scientists for launch in 2010, according to the Space Science Development Plan.


The Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense revealed the program as part of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) over the weekend.


The project is expected to help Chinese scientists make breakthroughs in the research of black hole physics and other related fields, because hard X-rays originate mostly from regions close to black holes, experts said.


The telescope would be preceded by Shijian-10, a recoverable satellite to be sent in 2009 for scientific experiments, according to the plan.


The document also singles out three international cooperative projects to be implemented in the current Five-Year Plan period.


One project is a collaboration with Russia on a joint unmanned mission to Mars, which will not only bring samples back to Earth but also land on one of the red planet's tiny moons, Ye Peijian, a leading scientist at the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, said last August.


China and Russia will also work on the World Satellite Observatory of Ultra-Violet.


Another international cooperation project is the Small Explorer for Solar Eruptions (SMESE), a Chinese-French mission to observe solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections for the next Solar Maximum projected for 2011.


The plan does not specify a timetable for the three projects, but it stresses that China will focus on innovation and sustainability of space science development to better serve the national economy and security.


Their ultimate goal is to use this scientific research to help build China into an "innovative country.”


The government will set up a system to ensure scientific projects are chosen in an "open and fair" fashion, and "multiple sources" are encouraged to fund such projects, it says.


The release of the development blueprint coincides with the ongoing sessions of the country's top legislature and political advisory body in Beijing.


Last week, Huang Chunping and Qi Faren, both members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said the country would launch a moon orbiter "some time" this year and stage a space walk in 2008.


(China Daily March 12, 2007)

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