China launched its second manned space mission yesterday, sending two astronauts into orbit as it opened a new chapter in its ambitious drive to become a global space power.
Shenzhou VI, based on Soviet Soyuz technology, lifted off on a Long March 2F carrier rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9am for a five-day mission, carrying air force pilots Fei Junlong (費俊龍) and Nie Haisheng (聶海勝).
It entered a fixed orbit 21 minutes later.
Having two crew on board is a departure from October 2003, when Yang Liwei (
"I feel good," said Fei in his first transmission from the craft.
Fei, 40, and Nie, 41, were seen off at the launch pad by Premier Wen Jiabao (
"The entire nation has waited, the entire world is watching the success of the Shenzhou VI manned space launch," he said, adding the "great achievement" would go down "in the annals of the history of the Chinese people."
Amid some concern that China could use space for military purposes, Wen said that this was not the case.
"China's entering into the scientific experiment of space flight is entirely for peaceful purposes and is a contribution towards the human race's works in promoting science and peace," he said.
Other top leaders including President Hu Jintao (