Japans astronauts

A number of Japanese astronauts and cosmonauts have reached orbit. NASDA had agreements with NASA for astronauts to fly as payload specialists on the Space Shuttle, but delays caused by the loss of the Challenger Space Shuttle meant that journalist Toyohiro Akiyama beat NASDA's specialists to become the first Japanese person in space (see panel, opposite). The first NASDA astronaut was Mamoru Mohri, who flew aboard the Japanese-


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Just like the rival powers of the Space Race, China today presents its space programme as a symbol of national pride and superiority, as seen in posters like this one.


Just like the rival powers of the Space Race, China today presents its space programme as a symbol of national pride and superiority, as seen in posters like this one.


Uniformed officers monitor a simulated launch from the control centre at Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, which is situated some 6km (4 miles) from the launch pad.

Long March into space

Although China was the birthplace of the rocket, it was slow to become a modern space power. Yet it now has its own military programme and operates commercial launch vehicles and satellites.

The catalyst for the formation of a national space programme in China dates back to the mid-1950s, when the recently established communist government welcomed the return of Tsien Hsue-shen from the USA (see panel, right). At the time, relations between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union were at their warmest, and an agreement signed in 1956 kick-started the Chinese missile programme by providing access to Soviet technology and expertise. However, China was far from immune to the political machinations and dogmatism that often frustrated Soviet space scientists, and although missile development continued to be a priority, support for the space programme waxed and waned - particularly after relations with the Soviets began to deteriorate in 1960.

Nevertheless, in 1970 China launched its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong-1. This was an updated equivalent of Sputnik 1, orbiting the Earth while transmitting a recording of the communist patriotic song The East is Red. The launch vehicle was Tsien's own Chang Zheng ("Long March", abbreviated as either CZ or LM) design - which is still in use today, albeit in a different form (see panel, below). The success of the CZ rocket allowed China to enter the commercial launch market in 1985. Early customers included the comsat companies Asiasat in Hong Kong and Optus in Australia, as well as organizations in Sweden and Pakistan. Much of the Iridium satellite phone network has also been launched from China.





China's launchers were originally based on the DF-5 ICBM, but soon developed along their own path. The CZ-2 is a family of launchers built around a common core, to which a variety of boosters and extra stages can be added. Despite the introduction of the CZ-3, which uses more powerful liquid hydrogen and oxygen as propellants, the older rocket is still in use. Development problems for the CZ-3 culminated in a 1996 disaster when a rocket hit a village near its launch site. Following a thorough overhaul, the CZ-3 has operated flawlessly. A new launch vehicle, the CZ-6, is currently in development.



Widely regarded as the founding father of China's space programme, Tsien Hsue-shen (b.1911) also played a key role in the early US space effort. Born and educated in China, he won a scholarship to study in the US in 1935.

After moving to the California Institute of Technology in 1936, Tsien began work on experimental rockets. During the Second World War, he helped establish the Jet f Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), but in 1950 he was arrested at the height of US anti-communist paranoia. After deportation to China in 1955, he did indeed join the Communist Party, leading the Chinese effort to develop ballistic missiles and launch vehicles.

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