China's fourth unmanned spacecraft, the Shenzhou IV, is to carry out a series of major space experiments in the fields of physics, biology and biomedicine, a leading Chinese scientist said yesterday.
If successful, the experiments will mark a breakthrough in the country's aerospace studies, said Gu Yidong, chief designer of China's space application system.
In particular, the designed experiments will cover materials processing, bio-medicine production and bioprocess.
"The space environment of slight to zero gravity is good to complete some operations that are almost impossible on Earth," Gu was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency yesterday.
In addition, the Shenzhou IV will also use microwaves for a remote-sensing survey of the Earth and to monitor the space environment.
Sources with the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center and on China's four survey ships confirmed yesterday that the spacecraft has been operating well, with all experiments carried out to plan so far.
The four survey ships are in the western Pacific Ocean, southern Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
The manned flight might happen in the second half of this year, Shanghai Aerospace Bureau director Yuan Jie said on Wednesday.
China's first group of peony seeds bred in outer space last month sprouted in Heze in East China's Shandong Province. This has made experts more confident of a satisfactory result in this round of space experiments.
The 200 peony seeds traveled into space on the Shenzhou III spacecraft from March 25 to April 1 last year for six full days and 18 hours.
It was the first time China had experimented on peony seeds in zero gravity.
(China Daily January 3, 2003)