China space flight receives US best

The US sent China a congratulatory message after the world’s most populous nation prepared to send astronauts into space for the first time.

    China launched its first satellite in 1970, the Dongfanghong-1

    “A Chinese manned space flight would obviously be an important event in space launch history,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
    “We wish them every success and wish their astronauts a safe return,” he told journalists amid reports that China's first astronauts have arrived at space facility ahead of a launch expected later this year.
    Chinese officials said the first launch would take place in the next three months, but had been non-committal about when it would actually happen. 

    “A Chinese manned space flight would obviously be an important event in space launch history”

    US State Department

    Final preparations
    Speculation over recent days has intensified amid reports the astronauts were in final preparations for the flight.

    The pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po newspaper reported on Monday that a group of 14 Chinese astronauts had arrived at the launch site in Jiquan. All, according to the report, were in excellent physical and psychological condition.
    The 14 had undergone training at the base in Gansu province and were present at the launch of the unmanned Shenzhou IV spacecraft earlier this year.
    The Shenzhou - or "divine vessel" - programme was launched in 1992 and had seen four flights so far.   

    China hopes to launch a space probe capable of orbiting the moon by 2005 or 2006.



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