BEIJING, Nov. 28-- Fresh from its second manned space mission, China's space program wants to be able to put a man on the moon and build a space station in 15 years, an official said Sunday.
"I think in about 10 to 15 years, we will have the ability to build our own space station and to carry out a manned moon landing," said Hu Shixiang, deputy commander of China's manned space flight program.
But the goal is subject to getting enough funds from the government, Hu said, explaining that the space program must fit in the larger scheme of the country's overall development.
Hu was in Hong Kong with the two astronauts who conducted China's second successful manned space mission in October. He spoke during a televised question-and-answer session with executives from various television stations and newspapers.
Nie Haisheng and Fei Junlong circled Earth for five days aboard the Shenzhou 6 capsule, traveling 2 million miles in 115 hours, 32 minutes. China's first manned mission was in 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited for 21 1/2 hours.
China wants to master the technology for a space walk and docking in space by 2012, Hu said. He said China was developing its space program at its own pace, not in competition with the United States."It's not the competition of the Cold War era," he said.
Hu stressed China's intention to use space exploration for peaceful ends, saying the government"is willing to work hard with people around the world for the peaceful use of space."
He said Chinese space officials want to study the possibility of making rockets with the capacity to carry spacecraft weighing 27.5 tons˘w three times the capacity of their existing rockets˘w but the government hasn't approved the funding.
Hu dismissed suggestions the space program is too costly for a country that, despite rapid economic growth, is still struggling to eradicate rural poverty.
He noted the recent space mission cost$111.4 million, compared to the$23.5 billion that China spent on combating pollution last year.
A day after they were declared heroes in Beijing, the special administrative region(SAR) yesterday gave Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng a rousing welcome as they arrived for a 3-day visit.
The two astronauts who successfully piloted last month's Shenzhou VI space mission came to Hong Kong at the invitation of Chief Executive Donald Tsang.
The space heroes attended a variety show at the Hong Kong Stadium where they were welcomed by Tsang and some 40,000 people.
Tsang said the delegation's visit has enhanced Hongkongers' sense of pride in being Chinese.
Speaking at the show, delegation leader Hu Shixiang told Hongkongers that they could compete to become national astronauts and scientists here could also join in space projects.
The day's activities for the delegation ended with a welcome banquet at Government House hosted by the Chief Executive.
This morning, they will be at Chinese University of Hong Kong to talk about the space mission; and the afternoon will see them at Hong Kong Disneyland. In the evening, they are expected to visit Santa's Town at Statue Square.
The delegation will leave Hong Kong for Macao on Wednesday.
On Saturday, the two astronauts were awarded the title of"Hero Astronaut" and the medal of"Space Flight Achievement" by President Hu Jintao in Beijing.
Last month's triumphant Shenzhou VI mission is another important contribution by the Chinese people to the peaceful use of outer space, the president told a gathering of 3,000 at the Great Hall of the People.
"The fact that China had realized the great jump from one-person-one-day space flight to multi-person-multi-day space mission within two years has marked a new landmark victory in China's manned space technology," Hu said.
(Source: Reuters/China Daily)