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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Profile: China's first spaceman
Yang Liwei
Yang Liwei is set for worldwide fame
If China's space programme is as successful as the country's leaders hope, "I feel good" could become as famous a piece of space-speak as "a giant leap for mankind".

With his first upbeat words to mission control, Yang Liwei shot into the limelight.

Until the launch itself, it had not even been confirmed that he would pilot the first Chinese manned space flight.

Now the 38-year-old fighter pilot has gone into orbit, and is set to spend almost 24 hours circling the Earth.

"See you tomorrow," he told mission control.

Athletic youth

Lieutenant Colonel Yang Liwei, a 1.68-metre (5' 6") fighter pilot, was born in 1965 in Liaoning province, in China's industrial north-east.

According to official media, he was selected from 14 final candidates, beating two other finalists, Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng, partly because he showed a "calm mental state" during psychological tests.

Yang Liwei in PLA uniform
Yang has a 20-year military career behind him
He has an impeccable class background, being the son of a teacher and an official from an agricultural firm.

According to his older sister, he was an active child who was a keen swimmer and ice-skater. His school record was average, although he did well in sciences.

He joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA) when he was 18, and graduated from the No 8 Aviation College.

He has 1,350 flying hours under his belt, and is described as "miraculously dedicated" by his colleagues.

He has been in the astronaut training programme since 1998, and earns a monthly salary of 10,000 yuan ($1,200).

Yang Liwei is married to a PLA officer, and they have an eight-year-old son.

Seeking honour

"We are proud of him," his brother-in-law told Reuters news agency.

Special space launch newspaper editions being sold
Yang was front-page news on Wednesday
"We don't worry about his safety because we trust the nation's advanced technology."

While in orbit, Yang Liwei is being fortified by specially produced packets of shredded pork with garlic, served with rice, and accompanied by cups of tea.

"I will not disappoint the motherland," he said, prior to the flight.

Once back on Earth, he can expect to be feted throughout the country, and held up as a model of hard work and devotion to the nation.


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