Brussels, 15 Oct 2003
The European Space Agency (ESA) has congratulated China on launching a human being into space for the first time.
China becomes only the third country to send someone into space, some 40 years after the former Soviet Union and the US.
Director General of ESA, Jean-Jacques Dordain, claimed that the successful launch demonstrates the reliability of China's aerospace technology. 'This mission could open up a new era of wider cooperation in the world's space community,' he said.
The Shezhou V spacecraft design is based on the Russian Soyuz space capsule, although Chinese scientists and engineers have made wide-ranging changes. It is expected to orbit the Earth 14 times, returning around 22 hours after take off. 'I feel good, see you tomorrow,' astronaut Yang Liwei told mission control from space.
China and ESA have been committed to mutual cooperation since the signing in 1980 of an agreement on the exchange of scientific information. The two space communities are likely to become even closer following the accession of China to Galileo, Europe's satellite navigation programme. Talks have now started on the contributions that China will make to the project.
A five year agreement is also expected to be signed soon, establishing more wide-ranging cooperation between ESA and the Chinese government. The agreement will cover space science, Earth observation, environmental monitoring, meteorology, telecommunications and satellite navigation, microgravity research, and human resource development and training.