Myers is First Foreign Visitor to Chinese Space Center
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
SPACE CITY, China, Jan. 14, 2004 The scene at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center here would be familiar to any visitor to the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the first foreign delegation to visit the facility outside China's capital.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets Chinese officers during a welcome ceremony in his honor Jan. 14 at the Bayi Building in Beijing. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The center is housed in a modern building. Three huge television screens face five rows lined with computer stations. The room looks to have positions for about 100 technicians.
The room is the nerve center for China's ambitious manned space flight program. Myers, who was the commander of U.S. Space Command before coming to Washington, toured the center, and received a briefing on the center from Chinese officials. He complimented the Chinese on their first manned mission, launched in October.
That mission launched Army Col. Yang Liwei into space aboard the Shen Zhou 5 capsule from the Jiuquan space center. Once clear of the launch tower, ground control of the mission switched to the facility here. The colonel a "taikonaut" in China orbited 14 times and landed safely in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. Officials showed Myers a model of the Shen Zhou. It looks like a larger version of the Russian Soyuz capsule.
While there is much that is familiar, the center features uniquely Chinese touches. On both sides of the television screens, for example, are banners with Chinese characters. One exhorts the technicians to "Achieve the Chinese people's dream of flying in space," and the other reminds them to "Realize the complete success of the first manned space mission."
The general viewed a video of the Shen Zhou 5 mission. Again, there were some Western touches. When describing the launch of the capsule atop a Long March 5 rocket, the background music was "Chariots of Fire." The video featured Yang speaking to Chinese leaders from space, and showed the technicians controlling the mission in the center.
The tour lasted about 40 minutes, and Myers signed a card for the technicians. It read, "Congratulations on China's first manned space flight! The whole world watched and was very happy that this flight was so successful. I wish you much success."
The visit was just one item on a full day's calendar for the chairman. In the morning, he met with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Liang Guanglie, the chief of the general staff. Following the tour of the control center, he met with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Defense Minister Gen. Cao Gangchuan and Gen. Guo Boxiong.