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China launches spacecraft with 1st woman astronaut

world Updated: Jun 17, 2012 01:37 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Dot at 6.37pm on Saturday, 'divine craft' or Shenzhou 9 lifted off for its space tryst with three astronauts including 33-year-old Liu Yang, a fighter pilot and a mother of one, on board.

Commander-in-chief of China's manned space programme Chang Wanquan announced the spacecraft had accurately entered its orbit, calling the spaceship launch a success.

Liu Yang's two male compatriots on board are Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang.

Earlier, top legislator Wu Bangguo greeted the three astronauts during the departure ceremony at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu province.

The build-up and the launch was telecast live on China's national broadcaster, CCTV accompanied by a minute-by-minute commentary by experts on China's space programme, potential problems and the implications of a successful launch.

The three astronauts were shown sitting inside the craft, waiting for the launch in their space gear; occasionally they waved at the camera.

Cameras were also installed on the outside of the craft and showed long shots of the earth as it blasted off to its orbit.

Saturday's launch was the Communist country's fourth manned space mission since 2003 when astronaut Yang Liwei became the country's first person in space.

According to Reuters, Chinese scientists have talked of the possibility of sending a man to the moon after 2020.

China's space programme has come a long way since late leader Mao Zedong, founder of Communist China in 1949, lamented that the country could not even launch a potato into space.