June 28, 2008

Chinese Astronauts Take Part in Olympic Torch Relay

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

JIUQUAN, Northwest China, June 28 (Xinhua) - Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, the crew of Shenzhou spacecraft 6, carried the Olympic flame Saturday in the torch relay at the "Dongfeng Space City" in northwest China's Gansu province.

A total of 22 bearers took part in the relay in the satellite launch base as most of which were top experts in China's spaceflight programme.

Fei, 43, and Nie, 44, had been the crew of Shenzhou 6, the second human spaceflight of China, which was launched three days before the second anniversary of China's first human spaceflight, Shenzhou 5, and took flight for five days in low Earth orbit.

The opening ceremony was staged on the movable launch complex within the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre as Fei ran down the first leg from the launch rack at 8:10 a.m. local time in the day's relay.

The lighting of torch adopted a method of time countdown as the rocket launch does in the backdrop of stage.

"It's another great honour for me along with the Shenzhou 6 flight. It's a great honour not just for me, but also for the whole family of cosmonauts and China's space programme technology," said Fei.

For Nie, carrying the torch in the 15th place is also one of the best memories. "I am happy with this, even happier than my 41th birthday," said Nie, who celebrated his 41st birthday in space.

Wang Yongzhi, 76, the chief designer of China's manned spacecraft programme, made an exhibition of the torch on the ninth floor of Umbilical Tower, part of the launch complex.

Wang, who was born in northeast Liaoning province, is an aerospace scientist and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He was awarded the nation's highest scientific and technological prize, State Preeminent Science and Technology Award in 2003.

The relay, complying with the theme of science and technology, passed the launch field, Ruoshui River, Heaven Flying park, Wentian Pavilion and Central Avenue, and reached the closing ceremony site, Dongfeng Square, at 9:10 a.m..

Shenzhou 6 was launched on 12 October 2005 on a Long March rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.

The JSLC, which covers 2,800 square kilometres, has been the focus of many of China's successful ventures into space, including their first satellite Dong Fang Hong 1 in 1970, and their first manned space mission Shenzhou 5 on October 15, 2003.

After the relay in spaceport of Dongfeng, the Olympic flame heads for Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for Sunday's relay in Zhongwei.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 0526 28 Jun 08.

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