Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/268
    16 October 2003

    China's First Manned Spacecraft Carried United Nations Flag

    VIENNA, 16 October (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) announced today that, following approval by the Secretary-General, two United Nations flags were flown aboard China's first manned space mission, which returned safely to Earth early this morning.

    Following a formal request by China to the Secretary-General in July 2003, the flags were provided for flight on China's first manned space mission as a symbol of its firm commitment to use outer space for peaceful purposes and for the betterment of all humankind.

    The flags were presented to the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations in Vienna, Ambassador Zhang Yan by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, Antonio Maria Costa, on behalf of the Secretary-General, at a formal ceremony held on 4 September 2003 at the Vienna International Centre. Also attending the ceremony were Sergio Camacho Lara, Director of OOSA, and representatives from the China Manned Space Engineering Programme Office. Officers of the United Nations Security and Safety Section provided an Honour Guard for the flags.

    During the handover ceremony, Ambassador Zhang stressed that China was firmly committed to using outer space for peaceful purposes and for the betterment of all humankind. He further stated that his nation considered the United Nations flag a potent symbol of that ideal and was grateful to the Secretary-General for allowing the use of the flags on the mission.

    Mr. Costa thanked the Permanent Representative for China's request to fly the United Nations flags, discussed details of the mission with the experts, and wished China success for the launch and safe return of the yuhangyuan (astronaut).

    Immediately after the event, representatives of the China Manned Space Engineering Programme Office, who had travelled from China to receive the flags, hand carried the flags to the space centre to prepare them for their flight.

    During a live television broadcast yesterday from 340 kilometres above Earth, Yang Liwei, commander of the Shen Zhou V, displayed a small United Nations flag with an accompanying flag of China, which appeared on the giant front screens at mission control in Beijing. The second flag, measuring 120 by 180 cm (4 by 6 foot), was placed on board the Shen Zhou V spacecraft prior to launch, an event which was notarized by the Beijing Notarization Office.

    Following the successful completion of the space flight early this morning, Mr. Camacho Lara said: "The successful conclusion of the Shen Zhou V mission is an important milestone in space exploration. Only three nations have developed this capability and the People's Republic of China is the first developing nation to do so. It shows developing nations that nothing is beyond their abilities whether it be spaceflight or something more down to Earth." Echoing the sentiments expressed by the United Nations Secretary-General, he added: "the United Nations would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the China National Space Administration and the people of China on this historic accomplishment."

    Following the successful return of Shen Zhou V, it is anticipated that yuhangyuan Yang Liwei will present the flags and other related flight items to the Secretary-General at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It is also anticipated that Mr. Yang will attend an upcoming session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and make a presentation on his historic spaceflight.

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    The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.oosa.unvienna.org.