China began its longest manned space mission yet Tuesday with the launch of the Shenzhou-10, state television showed, as the country steps up an ambitious exploration programme symbolising its growing power.
The rocket ascended above the Jiuquan space centre in the Gobi Desert exactly on time at 0938 GMT, trailing a vast column of flame.
The three astronauts on board -- who include Wang Yaping, 33, Chinas second woman in space -- saluted cameras mounted inside their capsule.
A few minutes after launch the boosters detached from the rockets, and a little later the solar panels of the Shenzhou-10 -- the name means "Divine Vessel" -- were deployed, to applause from mission control.
"The vessel is already in orbit," said Zhang Youxia, the manned space programmes chief commander. "I now announce the launch was a great success."
The crew are due to spend 15 days in orbit, in a mission that is a crucial step towards Chinas goal of building a full space station capable of housing astronauts for extended periods.
President Xi Jinping, fresh from a summit with US President Barack Obama, was on hand to watch the departure.
The Long March 2F rocket carrying Chinas manned Shenzhou 10 spacecraft blasting off from a launching pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, China.
Beijing sees the multi-billion-dollar space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and mounting technical expertise, as well as the ruling Communist Partys success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
Whenever Chinese astronauts blast off into space, theres interest here on earth in China about what they will eat. As the saying goes: for the people, food is heaven.
So it was fitting that the Beijing News recorded on its front page, of 14 pages of coverage about yesterdays launch of the Shenzhou 10 capsule, that the two male and one female astronauts will eat dousha zong, or sticky rice dumplings stuffed with sweet red beans and wrapped in green leaves, usually known as zongzi. Today is Dragon Boat Festival in China, a public holiday when the celebratory, triangular food, stuffed, wrapped and boiled by millions of families at home, is widely consumed.
As the China Daily noted, this is the First Dragon Boat Festival in Space.
In 2003, when Yang Liwei, Chinas first astronaut to enter space, took off in the Shenzhou 5, Chinas first manned spacecraft, he ate another national favorite which is also beloved of non-Chinese: Kung Pao chicken, or quick-fried chicken with peanuts, as the Shanghai Star reported (the dish also includes plenty of chili. Translated literally, its grander-sounding: Palace Protect Chicken Cubes.) The Shenzhou 10 astronauts will have some Kung Pao chicken with them as well as other food, including tea, China Daily said, citing other media reports, in a story also carried by Peoples Daily online.
On earth, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, hailed the successful launch of the space capsule with a Long March rocket, saying China was pursuing a Space Dream, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.
As well as food, numerology can be a serious business here, and the Beijing News noted that the Shenzhou 10 capsule represented an auspicious collection of 10s: 10 years, 10 times and 10 people, referring to how its the 10th year since the first manned space flight, there have been 10 trips in all and 10 Chinese have entered space, it said.
It cited the chief designer on the engineering project, Zhou Jianping, as saying: In China, 10 has a special meaning. We are confidently expecting that the Shenzhou 10 will complete its tasks 10 whole 10 beautiful! slang for flawlessly.
Those tasks include giving science lessons from space, The Associated Press reported. The Shenzhou is to dock in the small Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station, a forerunner for the space station China wants up and running around 2020.
On the heels of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfields wildly popular YouTube videos from the International Space Station, the Chinese crew plans to deliver a series of talks to students from aboard the Tiangong, the A.P. reported. Source
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