China is planning to send a man to the moon by 2005, as part of its space program. The mission is part of Beijing?s plans to join the United States and Russia as the only nations to have sent humans into space. This is occurring at the same time that both Russia and NASA are cutting costs and reducing the number of humans in space.

China?s first satellite was launched in 1970. In 1999 and January 2001 it successfully launched the ?Shenzou? unmanned spacecraft. A monkey, a dog, a rabbit and snails were sent into orbit aboard the second Shenzou launch, and scientists say that more unmanned tests will be necessary. ?We must be sure that the astronauts are 100 percent safe in outer space after launching,? says Liang Sili of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Beijing plans to launch three further satellites for weather monitoring, oceanic study and earth resource exploration in 2002 as part of a five-year space program. Sun Laiyan, vice director of the China National Space Administration, says, ?China has put the plan for developing the industry on the table.?

China has already launched several satellites for U.S. and Brazilian operators and is trying to get a larger share of the satellite launching market. To date, it has launched almost 50 satellites with a 90 percent success rate. They plan to launch 30 more in the next five years.

China wants to use its aerospace technology to make advances in agriculture, medicine, meteorological studies and telecommunications. ?For mankind in the 21st century, space applications will become as essential as electricity and oil in the 19th century,? Liang says.

China is also aware of the military potential of space technology. ?I should point out that some powers in the world are on the way to militarizing outer space, not peacefully exploring outer resources,? says Huang Huikang, an official from China?s foreign ministry. ?Another arms race in outer space has begun since 1998 and we should be watchful.?

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