12 Jun 2013

Chinese astronauts launched into space

5:10 am on 12 June 2013

China launched its latest Shenzhou manned space mission on Tuesday.

Three astronauts blasted away from the Jiuquan base in Inner Mongolia on a Long March 2F rocket at 5.38pm Beijing time.

Commander Nie Haisheng and his crew, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping are scheduled to spend almost two weeks at the orbiting Tiangong space lab.

Wang is China's second female astronaut.

The crew capsule was ejected from the upper-stage of the rocket about nine minutes after lift-off. Mission controllers clapped enthusiastically once the ship's solar panels had been deployed.

Earlier in the day, Chinese TV carried pictures of President Xi Jinping wishing the crew luck.

"You have made Chinese people feel proud of ourselves,'' Xi told Nie and his colleagues.

"You have trained and prepared yourselves carefully and thoroughly, so I am confident in your completing the mission successfully. "I wish you success and look forward to your triumphant return.''

This mission, the fifth manned venture by China and scheduled to be the longest, is designated Shenzhou-10.

The BBC reports it is the latest step in China's plan to eventually put a permanently manned station above the Earth.

Like the International Space Station (ISS), it will have long-duration residents and be supplied by robotic freighters.