Science

China ramps up space programme

15 launches planned for 2008

China will this year launch 15 rockets, deploy 17 satellites and mount its third manned space mission, the country's secretary-general of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence has announced.

Huang Qiang outlined the plans yesterday, but remained tight-lipped on exact details. State media has already announced that the manned Shenzhou VII mission, involving a space walk, is pencilled for October. Reuters adds that China will colaborate with Russia in 2009 on a Mars exploration gig.

According to Xinhua, Huang described the Shenzhou VII as a "major task", and demanded "full cooperation between all departments involved".

The Communist state is currently on a bit of a roll with its ambitious space programme, having successfully beamed back pictures of the Moon from its Chang'e 1 probe. In 2003, it became only the third country to conduct a domestic manned mission, and reports have suggested it's eyeing the possibility of a manned space station and putting a comrade on the Moon.

It has, however, repeatedly denied its programme has military pretentions. In December last year, president Hu promised his nation's space ambitions were "purely for peaceful purposes". ®

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