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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK
Space show draws in the Chinese

By James Reynolds
BBC News, Wuhan

If you get to visit China's space exhibition in the city of Wuhan, you need not worry about missing anything.

space hailers
Tour guides with loud-hailers ensure space enthusiasts miss nothing

Tour guides armed with loud-hailers flock to greet visitors.

Each guide uses their loud-hailer at all times, even when talking to just one visitor or showing people where the bathroom is.

The organisers want to make sure the point of this exhibition comes over loud and clear: China is in space.

The exhibition shows off the blue spacesuit used by China's astronauts; the charred landing pod and parachute used to bring the country's first astronaut back to Earth in 2003; and also a huge white rocket about 50 metres long.

Going into space is good for our national prestige
Xie Chengqiang
exhibition visitor

On its side are printed the initials "LM" - the letters stand for "Long March".

Later this year a rocket like this will be fired from a heavily guarded military base towards the moon.

It will go into lunar orbit for a year, taking pictures of the moon's surface.

Sky-high expectations

Of course, China is a few decades behind others. The United States has already gone to the moon, planted its flag, played a bit of golf and come back home with some lunar rocks.

We're interested in going far beyond lunar exploration
Liu Jiyuan
former head of China's Space Administration

But still, China thinks it is worth having another look - just in case America's Apollo missions missed anything.

"Going into space is good for our national prestige," says Xie Chengqiang, who is visiting the exhibition.

"I'm very proud of our achievements."

"I would like to be an astronaut when I grow up," says 9-year-old Lin Meng.

"You'll need to study hard then," says her father.

Then a small man with glasses comes into the exhibition. A tour guide approaches him and starts talking into her loud-hailer.

She takes him through the history of China's space programme. He nods along, and then smiles and tells her not to bother. No wonder. The man is Liu Jiyuan.

He is the former head of the China National Space Administration - China's Nasa - and the person who came up with the idea of China in space.

China's Nasa

"We're interested in going far beyond lunar exploration," he explains.

Rocket boy
China has plans that aim higher than lunar exploration

"We've already started to cooperate with Russia about exploring Mars. All of this will help us to understand the universe."

China's ambitions in space are important - because they are a sign of how this country sees itself in the future.

If you are the kind of country that wants to become a superpower, you probably need to get some hardware into space.

Right now, China always insists that it is just a developing country doing its best to stay out of poverty.

But ordinary developing countries do not tend to go flying off to the moon.

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