Why China gains big leap skyward

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A Chinese Long March 2F carrier rocket hurled Shenzhou-8 into orbit a week ago. Two days later, the unmanned spacecraft linked up with the Tiangong-1 module, accomplishing China's first space docking.

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Less than two months before, however, an orbiter launched by a similar Long March rocket had failed to reach its designated orbit due to a malfunction.

After the failure, Chinese rocket engineers "started all over again," putting an all-out effort to solving the problem. As a result of their diligence, the modified rocket carrying Shenzhou-8 was launched at its originally scheduled time and put the spacecraft into orbit in a "near perfect" fashion, said Jin Muchun, chief rocket system designer for the mission.

This rapid and successful correction of a design flaw reflects the quest for perfection and dedication of Chinese space engineers. It may also explain how China's space program has achieved such success.

"We never push ahead for the sake of speed and we don't turn our back on problems," said Li Jie, a senior official with China's manned space program. "At meetings, instead of praising each other, we always put forward questions, one after another."

Compared with the United States and Russia, China came late to manned space exploration. However, since the start of the country's manned space program in 1992, China has sent six astronauts into space and completed the country's first space walk and space docking.

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