News

(Xinhua) 21 November 1999
21-hour voyage of China's first spacecraft successful

China's first experimental spacecraft, "Shenzhou" (meaning "magic vessel" in Chinese), has completed a 21-hour space voyage at 3:41 am (Beijing Time) on November 21.

I. JIUQUAN SATELLITE LAUNCHING CENTER (Gansu Province in northwest China)
Along with multi-level pads being stretched open on the launch tower in a newly-built manned spaceflight launching site, there emerged a carrier rocket and an experimental spacecraft in the wee hours on November 20.

Atop the new model "Long March" cluster-rocket was the first spacecraft independently developed and manufactured by China. "Shenzhou" spacecraft, named by President Jiang Zemin, is composed of cabinets of propulsion, return and orbit. The designs of the two red Five-Star national flag, which were painted on both sides of the spacecraft, looked dazzling and were eye-catching under the bright light.

At 6:30, there came the order to ignite the rocket. "Long March " blasted off immediately amid a huge red ball of flammulated flames. Ten minutes after takeoff, the spacecraft detached itself from the launching vehicle and entered a pre-set orbit. This was the 59th flight of "Long March" cluster carrier rocket, thus adding a brand-new page in the annals of China's spaceflight.

II. SPACEFLIGHT COMMANDING AND CONTROL CENTER (Beijing)
Numerals tap dancing on the display screens of more than 100 computer terminals made outliers dazzling. Four large screens showed the curve movement of the spacecraft entering the space. And the tittuping numerals were transferred into the vivid three- dimensional images on a huge screen.

A scientific experiment began probing into the mystery of the outer space here at the Beijing Spaceflight Commanding and Control Center, which is some 1,000 km away from Jiuquan where "Shenzhou" spacecraft was launched.

When it counted to the seventh second after the launch, a tiny shiny dot appeared on the huge screen limned with the map of northwest China and the theoretical ballistic curve. It indicated that the flight curve of the spacecraft tallied with the theoretical movement curve.

Monitoring and surveying data kept crowding into the Beijing- based control center from ground monitoring and control stations and four surveying ships stationed at high seas.

Flopping fingers input numbers and output commands. Calculations of an expert team showed that the spaceship did enter the preset orbit. Then, the control center was resounded with round after round of enthusiastic applauses.

III. SOUTHERN ATLANTIC OCEAN (on the No.3 Spaceflight Survey Ship)
At 18:00 hours on November 20 (local time), an order of return was transmitted to the spacecraft, which has revolved around the Earth for the 14th circle, when it arrived above southern Atlantic Ocean.

The order was from No. 3 spaceflight survey ship, namely " Yuanwang" (meaning "Looking Far into the Distance" in Chinese), which has been stand-to on the Ocean.

Then, the spacecraft established the state of return, stated up the retropack, and began to return from the sky with an altitude of over 300 kilometers.

Meanwhile, three other survey ships, Yuangwang No.1 and 2 on the Pacific Ocean, and Yuanwang No.4 on the Indian Ocean, have all accomplished the survey tasks of their own with flying colors.

However, with a sudden climate change, three-meter waves rolled up on the vast ocean and foams splashed onto the sides of the survey ship, Yuanwang No. 3, and it sailed ahead despite pounding waves.

At 18:48 hours, with an order of "ready in one minute" over the broadcastg from the Control Center in Beijing, a radar tracing and surveying antenna on the top of the No.3 survey ship began to move slowly towards the direction that the spacecraft would appear.

The next order of pose adjusting from Beijing was smoothly transmitted to the spacecraft via No.3 survey ship, which had fulfilled tracing and survey mission of the spacecraft at 18:58 hours after it has sent out a series of remote orders related to pose adjusting, detaching of the orbit cabinet and brake application.

At 19:41 hours when the last sunset clouds fading away on the Atlantic Ocean, people in Beijing longing for the return of the spacecraft have finally heard the good news: it landed at last. The clock directed to 3:41 hours on November 21 in Beijing.


IV. SPACECRAFT LANDING STRIP IN MID-INNER MONGOLIA (north China)

When it was over 3 o'clock in the early morning (Beijing Time), spacecraft "Shenzhou" deviated from its original elliptic orbit in the sky with an altitude of more than 300 kilometers.

Like a violent-tempered horse tamed by the scientists on the ground, "Shenzhou" spacecraft slided towards mid-Inner Mongolia, its designated destination.

At the scheduled landing strip, technicians with various survey equipment were on the tiptoe of expectation and ready to capture the magic craft. "Attention," a voice from the speaker call everybody's attention.

"Shenzhou" has entered the aerosphere which is only 80 km above the ground. Its fabulous speed of about 7.5 km per second resulted in violent friction between the spacecraft and the aerosphere.

When "Shenzhou" craft lowered to the height of some 40 km, a plasma shell, formed on the surface of the spacecraft, produced electromagnetic shielding, so that the ground-spacecraft communications suspended for a while.

A brief silence was broken by a report from a radar station: " target discovered." The simple, short words meant that radar has captured "Shenzhou" during the communication-dark period.

"Shenzhou" continued to decline, radar continued tracing, and three helicopters convolving above the landing spot.

When there were only 30 km to slide before landing, "Shenzhou" craft received one more order to have its electric power switched on.

And, afterwards, one good news came after another. Brake parachute was detached, and the principal parachute turned completely open.

In a twinkling when there were 1.5 meters from "Shenzhou" craft to the ground, four spacecraft-carried landing buffer propulsions simultaneously burst into flames.

The spacecraft was landed with loadfulls of scientific experiment data, after a space voyage of 21 full hours for China's first spacecraft.