Reuters: Astronauts blast off into space
Updated: 2005-10-12 08:25
China's second manned spacecraft blasted off from a remote northwestern
launch site on Wednesday, just two years after the country joined an elite club
of space powers.
Astronauts Fei Junlong, 40, and Nie Haisheng, 41, were handpicked from 14
fighter pilots and had been in the running for China's first manned space launch
in 2003. Their mission is due to last five days.
"There is nothing to worry about," state television quoted the two as saying
before the launch as a light snow fell. "We will accomplish the mission
resolutely. See you in Beijing."
"I feel good," Fei said minutes after blast-off.
The launch came just a day after the Communist Party wrapped up a key meeting
to map out the development of the world's seventh-largest economy for the next
It also came as China opens its 10th National Games, dubbed its mini-Olympic
Games, ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders were at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch
Center, deep in the desert of western Gansu province, to witness the launch.
"You will once again show that the Chinese people have the will,
confidence and capability to mount scientific peaks ceaselessly," the official
Xinhua news agency quoted Premier Wen as telling the astronauts.
In the Chinese capital, President Hu Jintao and Vice President Zeng Qinghong
watched the lift-off at the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center.
China is determined to become a serious space player and set up a National
Astronaut Training Center in Beijing this week. Xinhua said it was only the
third such facility in the world.
"We should never slacken our efforts to explore the mystery of space," Nie,
the astronaut, told Xinhua.
State television has been filled with images of spacecraft and astronauts for
the past few days.
China's first man in space was Colonel Yang Liwei, who orbited Earth 14 times
aboard Shenzhou V craft in October 2003.
The former Soviet Union and the United States put their first men into space