Timetable for China's Space Programme

Apr 16, 2009
*Special to asia!
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The space program of the People's Republic of China is currently directed by the China National Space Administration (CSNA). Its technological roots can be traced back to the late 1950s.


1955 China-born Tsien Hsue-sen, co-founder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory left the US after five years of virtual house arrest on accusations of communist sympathies. He returned to China and became the leader of its space programme.


1957 October 4 The USSR launched Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite. The space race had begun.

November: USSR launched Sputnik II, carrying the first living creature, a dog called Laika, into space.


1958 The US launched its first satellite, Explorer I


1956 to 1958 The USSR provided intermediate-range ballistic missiles to China for study.


1960 China launched its first rocket, Changzheng (Long March), despite a cut off of Soviet aid.


1961 April 12 The USSR sent the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into space. A month later Alan Shepard became the first American to fly into space.


1968 China set up a research centre for manned spaceflight. The programme was later cancelled due to lack of money and political support.


1969 July 20 Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 of the US, became the first man on the moon. The second phase of the space race had begun.


1970 China became the fifth country to launch a satellite into space, sending up the Dongfanghong-1 (“The East is Red”) aboard a Long March rocket.


1991 Tsien retired.


1992 Re-launch of human spaceflight programme as “Project 921,” with the target date of October 1999. Qi Faren, trained in Russia, was appointed chief designer.


1995 The USSR agreed to help China with human spaceflight technology. The training of Chinese astronauts began in a cosmonaut academy near Moscow.


1999 Nov 20 Successful test flight of the unmanned capsule Shenzhou 1, or “Divine Vessel.” Three further unmanned test flights, Shenzhou 2 to 4, followed.


2003 Oct 15 Launch of Shenzhou 5 with one taikonaut, Yang Liwei, making China the third nation after the US and Russia capable of putting a human in space.


2005 Oct 12 Launch of Shenzhou 6 with two taikonauts, on a multi-day mission aimed at leaving an orbiting module in space.


lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


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