China space mission blasts off

2013-06-11 12:19
The Long March-2F rocket carrying China's manned Shenzhou-10 spacecraft blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Jiuquan, China's Gansu Province. (Wang Jianmin, Xinhua, AP)

The Long March-2F rocket carrying China's manned Shenzhou-10 spacecraft blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Jiuquan, China's Gansu Province. (Wang Jianmin, Xinhua, AP)

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Beijing - China's latest manned spacecraft blasted off with three astronauts onboard on Tuesday on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab in the latest step toward the development of a space station.

The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft was launched from a remote site in the Gobi desert in China's far west at 09:38 GMT, an event carried live on state television.

Once in orbit, the craft will dock with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1, a trial space laboratory module, and the two male and one female astronauts will carry out various experiments and test the module's systems.

Beijing sees the multi-billion-dollar space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and mounting technical expertise - as well as the ruling Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

It is heavily promoted to the domestic audience. The mission was given blanket coverage in state-run media on Tuesday, with stories and pictures of the astronauts in their blue jumpsuits - a Chinese flag pinned over their chests - on almost every front page.

Astronaut Wang Yaping will teach lessons to schoolchildren via video link during the mission, officials said.

"We are all students in facing the vast universe. We are looking forward to joining our young friends to learn and explore the mystical and beautiful universe," she told a press conference on Monday.

The official Xinhua news agency ran profiles of the three astronauts, and said that Wang has 1 600 hours of flying experience, including dispelling clouds for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Read more on:    china  |  space
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