Wed, September 24, 2008
Sci-Tech > Science

China's "mysterious" space mission launch center unveiled to overseas media

2008-09-24 13:12:21 GMT2008-09-24 21:12:21 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English

JIUQUAN, Gansu, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- The once "mysterious" satellite launch center isolated in a northwest China desert, where the country's third manned spacecraft Shenzhou-7 is due to blast off, has unveiled itself to overseas media.

Eleven journalists with nine overseas media organizations have gathered at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to cover the Shenzhou-7 program, becoming the first group of reporters from outside the Chinese mainland, since the base's founding half a century ago, to witness and report a space mission of the country at the very site of a launch.

The media organizations include Reuters, the Associate Press, RIA Novosti and Japan's Fuji TV. They participated two news conferences Wednesday afternoon, when the headquarters briefed them on the mission and the trio taikonauts met the press in a window pane-separated and strictly quarantined room.

"I watched China's first two manned space missions on TV. It was very nice for me to report the Shenzhou-7 mission here at the Jiuquan center," said Konstantin Shchepin, Beijing senior correspondent of RIA Novosti.

Two news organizations from Taiwan were invited to the launch center. "It is amazing that I am allowed to enter this usually mysterious area," said Vicky Chan, a reporter with TVBS of Taipei, who arrived at the launch center on Friday.

TVBS would cooperate with the China Central Television of the mainland to produce programs on the Shenzhou-7 mission, she said.

"Journalists from both China and abroad are welcome to report the efforts and achievements made by the mission's technicians," said Jia Ke, spokesman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation,

"But reporters are also required to keep certain information confidential," he added.

A Beijing-based media center would open on Thursday to foreign journalists covering the Shenzhou-7 program.

Located at the Media Center Hotel near the CCTV, it provides free TV and radio signals, free broadband Internet access and free reference materials.

The Information Office of the State Council would hold several press conferences on the Shenzhou-7 mission starting from Friday and planned to invite more journalists to Jiuquan, officials said.

Established in 1958, the launch base is located in a remote desert area 210 km away from Jiuquan City of northwestern Gansu Province. It started to open to the public in 1986.

The center was China's first spaceport and has seen more launches than the other two bases in Taiyuan of northern Shanxi Province and Xichang of southwestern Sichuan Province.

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