It's one thing to set in motion a space program aimed at providing Earth observations, communications, scientific data or even space exploration; all of that can be accomplished with unmanned craft such as orbital satellites or deep-space probes. China, however, has also focused on developing Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts (from taikong, the Chinese word for space, and the Greek suffix -naut, for sailor) [source: Cong].
Sending a human into the hostile environs beyond Earth's protective envelope is a tall order, requiring a unique series of advanced technologies, including extended life support, but China has risen to the challenge. In 2003, its space program successfully launched its first taikonaut, Yang Liwei; five years later, a Chinese astronaut conducted the country's first spacewalk.
The nation's long-term goal, as we'll discuss later, is to put taikonauts on the moon. How do you get to the moon? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice. Oh, and rockets -- lots of them. Read on to see how much prep China has put in so far.