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The BBC's Adam Brookes
"It can carry a crew of astronauts"
 real 28k

The BBC's Adam Brookes
"The launch comes amid a spate of national celebrations"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 November, 1999, 00:24 GMT
China joins space club
The capsule parachuted down in Inner Mongolia

China has successfully completed a test of its first experimental spacecraft.

Another milestone in China's astronautical history
China's state news agency
The Shenzhou spacecraft, literally meaning "divine ship", was in space for 21 hours and orbited 14 times according to the Chinese Xinhua news agency.

The unmanned spacecraft was launched with a new version of the Long March rocket from Jinquan satellite launch centre in the north-western province of Gansu at 0630 on Saturday (2230 GMT on Friday).

The capsule "touched down" in the northern province of Inner Mongolia, the agency said.

Television showed only simulation pictures of the module descending by parachute before landing.

Lift-off for 'divine ship'
The vehicle is part of China's manned space flight programme. This launch was designed to test the technology of the craft for future manned space travel.

In brief video footage showing the launch and the capsule that returned to Earth, the spacecraft appeared to resemble the Apollo series of capsules launched by Nasa in the US in the late 1960s.

China decades behind

"The successful launching and retrieval of the spaceship marks the country's new major breakthrough in manned space flight technology," according to the Chinese news agency.

Our correspondent in Beijing, Adam Brookes, reports that China already has a successful commercial satellite launch industry and a considerable missile capacity.

In manned space flight, however, it still remains decades behind the United States and Russia.

However, the Chinese Communist Party appears to view putting an astronaut into space as an important prestige project.

China says that the rockets and the craft in this weekend's launch were designed and manufactured by Chinese scientists.

Analysts in the space business say that China looks to Russia for extensive help in its space programme.

The launch makes China the third country to have a manned space programme, after the United States and Russia.

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See also:
20 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
Intriguing details of Chinese space plans
10 Jun 99 |  Sci/Tech
China's secret manned spacecraft revealed
26 Feb 99 |  Sci/Tech
Chinese manned spaceflight probable
13 May 99 |  Sci/Tech
China to test 'space shuttle' in October

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