BEIJING, CHINA: China launched its most ambitious space mission to date, sending its first female astronaut into orbit and bidding to achieve the country’s first manual space docking.
Shenzhou-9 China’s fourth manned space mission blasted off on schedule at 6:37 pm (1037 GMT) from the remote Gobi desert in the nation’s northwest, state television pictures showed.
Chang Wanquan, commander-in-chief of China’s manned space programme, said the craft had entered orbit, and declared the launch a “complete success”.
The crew was headed by Jing Haipeng, a veteran astronaut who had gone to space twice already. Liu Wang, who has been in the space programme for 14 years, will be in charge of manual docking manoeuvres.
Meanwhile Liu Yang, 33, who has created a stir in the media and online for becoming China’s first woman to travel to space, will conduct aerospace medical experiments and other space tests.
President Hu Jintao said that ”I would like to extend warm congratulations and sincere regards to all those participating. The docking operation would mark a major breakthrough in the country’s manned space programme.”