Space-age ship kicks off 60th anniversary events

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 April, 2009, 12:00am

With a basketball court, a swimming pool and a surgical theatre, the 222-metre Yuanwang-6 space communications ship is an impressive sight.

A key player in the Shenzhou VII space programme, the ship's six-day visit to Hong Kong marks the start of a host of activities in the city to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The public will get a chance to see China's latest communication vessel equipped with hi-tech antennas that can transmit signals between the Earth and the moon.

With more than 300 rooms, a helicopter apron and comprehensive medical and recreational facilities, it can cruise with more than 300 sailors for 100 days without making a port call.

It can also transmit and receive signals within a 400,000km radius of the Earth.

Captain Ling Yuan said the ship's communications system would be used in future lunar exploration given that the distance between the Earth and the moon was only 380,000km.

With a width of 25 metres and height of 40 metres, Yuanwang-6 is a space tracking ship designed and built by the mainland and has been in use since last April. It berthed in Suva, Fiji, in September to track the Shenzhou VII manned space mission.

Captain Ling said the communication vessel had also helped measure and monitor air pressure inside the spacecraft when Chinese astronauts took their first spacewalk.

The Yuanwang ('gaze afar') fleet comprises six vessels that have communicated with China's spacecraft and satellites and tracked their locations over the past three decades.

Groups from schools and social-welfare organisation will visit the ship today, and a further 14,000 people who snapped up free tickets earlier will tour the vessel in the following three days. It will leave on Sunday.

Ding Xingnong, head of the delegation from the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department, said: 'We hope to enable the people of Hong Kong to know more about space-tracking ships and our country's aerospace achievements.'