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Chinese Launch is a Success.


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Chinese Launch is a Success.
Chinese Launch is a Success: Image credit: Xinhua.

China joined an elite club of spacefarers on Wednesday with the launch of the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft from the Jiuquan desert launch site. At precisely 9:00am local time (0100 GMT), a Long March 2 rocket blasted into the sky carrying Astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit - and into the history books.

China joined an elite club of spacefarers on Wednesday with the launch of the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft from the Jiuquan desert launch site. At precisely 9:00am local time (0100 GMT), a Long March 2 rocket blasted into the sky carrying Astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit - and into the history books.

Liwei reached space 10 minutes after launch, and is set to orbit the Earth 14 times over the course of 21 hours. He'll then de-orbit on Thursday, re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and make a parachute landing in the Gobi desert. Just like the previous four passengerless Shenzhou spacecraft have done.

Only the United States and Russia have launched humans into space before today.

Liwei Chosen from Fourteen

China's first man into space, Yang Liwei, is a 38-year old lieutenant in the People's Liberation Army. He hails from Louzhong County in Liaoning province, an industrial area in northeast China. He's the son of a teacher and an official at an agricultural firm.

Liwei was chosen from 14 astronauts who had been training for several years for this mission. Then three candidates were chosen to prepare for an actual launch. Officials said they'd be selecting their Astronaut based on physical condition on the day of the launch - lucky Liwei.

Although the Shenzhou can carry three astronauts, only one was chosen for today's flight.

Almost a Secret

The Chinese space program is renowned for its secrecy. Until today's launch, space officials had kept everyone in the dark; announcing the launch of the previous Shenzhou spacecraft only after they'd successfully made it to orbit.

With Shenzhou 5, however, insiders and media were predicting an October 15 launch. Officials finally admitted last week that it was indeed their chosen date; to give government officials time to attend the launch. It's believed that President Hu Jintao and his predecessor Jiang Zemin were there to watch Liwei blast off.

State officials were originally planning to broadcast the launch live on television, but they decided against it at the last minute to manage publicity in case of an accident.

NASA was one of the first groups to publicly congratulate the new spacefarers. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said, "the Chinese people have a long and distinguished history of exploration. NASA wishes China a continued safe human space flight program."




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