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Chinese leader celebrates space success

Chinese President Hu Jintao hails the success of the country's first moon probe  and repeats his vow that its space program would serve only peaceful purposes.
/ Source: news services

China’s president hailed the success of the country's first moon probe on Wednesday as a landmark event after three decades of reform — and repeated his vow that its space program would serve only peaceful purposes.

Concerns about a potential military rivalry in space with the United States have mounted since China blew up one of its own weather satellites using a ground-based missile in January. Chinese officials have repeatedly denied that they are engaged in a space arms race.

President Hu Jintao addressed the subject again in a nationally broadcast speech to Communist Party officials, military officers, scientists and schoolchildren at Beijing's Great Hall of the People. Hu focused on the achievements of China's Chang'e lunar orbiter, which blasted off in October and has been sending data back from the moon since last month.

“It is another landmark achievement in our endeavor to promote homegrown innovation. ... This major achievement is an important embodiment of our country’s ever increasing national power in the 29 years of reform and opening-up,” Hu declared.

In 2003, China became only the third country to put a man into space, using its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It then sent two astronauts on a five-day flight on its Shenzhou 6 spaceship in October 2005. China plans to launch its third manned space mission, Shenzhou 7, next October.

Hu said China’s space program had “greatly stimulated the patriotic fervor of the entire Chinese nation” but stressed that its ambitions were benign.

“China’s exploration of outer space is purely for peaceful purposes,” he said.

Hu also repeated China’s assertions that it hoped to join multinational space exploration, including the international space station.

“The Chinese people are willing to join with all other people to go along the road of peaceful utilization of outer space and cooperate in international space exploration,” he said.

This report includes information from Reuters and The Associated Press.