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Astronaut Yang Meets Journalists Before Takeoff

Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut who is orbiting the earth in space, said he was "fully prepared and have confidence and capability to fulfill the mission" in his first public debut with a group of journalists shortly before the takeoff Wednesday morning.


The meeting with journalists was held at the astronauts' dormitory at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in the Gobi desert in northwest China. Yang, 38, a lieutenant colonel of the People's Liberation Army, appeared with his two backups, Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng, all in blue uniforms, in a clean and transparent chamber.


Yang said, answering a question from Xinhua, he would not disappoint the motherland and thanked his families for support and encouragement.


No matter who would be chosen to fly China's first manned spaceflight, he would realize the long-held "sacred mission" for the Chinese nation for thousands of years "on behalf of the motherland and the people," Yang said.


Nie Haisheng said they would make careful and detailed preparations to the "glorious cause" and any one designated to carry out the mission would manage to finish the country's first spaceflight at his best.


When asked what they would like to tell young Chinese who dream to be an astronaut as the three finalists, one of whom would become the "first space hero" of the Chinese nation, Zhai Zhigang said, "I think, once you have confidence in yourself, you can make a success."


Yang was born to a teacher's family in Suizhong County in northeast China's Liaoning Province. He has an 8-year-old son. He is 1.68 meters tall.


While a fighter pilot, Yang had at least 1,350 hours of flight experience. His comrades describe him as a "miraculously dedicated" man.


The two other finalists, Zhai Zhigang was born in 1966 and Nie Haisheng in 1964.


(Xinhua News Agency October 15, 2003)



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