Wednesday 15 October 2003


Smoke trail over the GobiFrom the ABC :
China has launched its first manned space flight, becoming only the third country to put a man into orbit.

Lift-off from the Gobi desert was at 9:00am local time (11:00am AEST), the start of a mission that it is hoped will rocket China into the exclusive space club pioneered by the former Soviet Union and United States four decades ago.

A Long March 2F rocket called the Shenzhou V - "divine ship" in Chinese - carried a single "taikonaut" named Yang Liwei, 38, following a trail blazed by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and American Alan Shepard in 1961.

"I feel good and my conditions are normal," Xinhua quotes Lieutenant-Colonel Yang as saying.

Chinese state television says the spacecraft has entered Earth orbit.

The rocket is to orbit the Earth 14 times before returning after about 21 hours.

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