China Says First Manned Space Mission Going Well


China says its first manned space mission is going well and the spacecraft is operating normally in orbit.

Thousands of people gathered in the Gobi desert of northwestern China to watch and cheer Wednesday's launch of the Shenzhou Five spacecraft. Millions more Chinese watched a delayed tape broadcast of the launch on state-run television.

The craft is carrying China's first astronaut in space -- 38-year-old fighter pilot Yang Liwei. The official Xinhua news agency quoted Colonel Yang as saying he felt good after the launch and that the craft was running normally. Xinhua also quoted President Hu Jintao, who witnessed the lift-off, as saying the launch was a historic step for the Chinese people.

Many Chinese citizens who watched the launch are calling Colonel Yang a national hero, saying they are proud that China was successfully able to put a man in space.

Plans call for the spacecraft to orbit the earth 14 times before landing early Thursday in Inner Mongolia.

The flight comes 42 years after the Soviet Union put the first man into space in April 1961. The United States sent a man into space three weeks later.

China kept details of this launch secret, saying in advance only that the launch would take place between Wednesday and Friday. Colonel Yang's name was kept a secret until a few hours before the launch.

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