- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

BEIJING, Jan. 5 (UPI) — The spaceship China hopes will soon carry humans landed as planned Sunday night after 108 orbits, the Xinhua news service reported.

The "Shenzhou IV" re-entry vehicle spent six days circling the planet, finally landing in Inner Mongolia in northern China, leaving behind an orbiter which will stay aloft several more days, officials said.

It was the fourth test flight in the decade-long manned flight development program.

The space capsule was launched from the Jiuquan Manned Space Launch Site in northwest China's Gansu province Dec. 30 atop a Long March II F rocket. A crew of Chinese astronauts boarded the capsule — but only for practice — and got off before the launch.

During the flight, the spaceship was tracked and controlled by the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center through its four "Yuanwang" aerospace survey ships stationed in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and its ground control stations.

Chinese officials said the spacecraft successfully performed several hundred moves in space, including unfolding its solar panels.

The experts said "Shenzhou IV," the third unmanned capsule of China's ongoing manned space program, could carry a crew now that its life-support system has been tested.

A number of research projects were conducted in the spaceship during the flights, involving earth observation, materials science and space astronomy.

The "Shenzhou" re-entry vehicle will be transported to Beijing later for technical analysis and scientific research, while its orbiter will continue to orbit for an unspecified number of days for related space science and application experiments.




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