JIUQUAN, Gansu, Oct. 15, 2003 (Xinhuanet) -- China successfully sent its first astronaut into outer space by a home-made manned spacecraft,the Shenzhou-5, Wednesday morning and became the third nation capable of manned space missions following the former Soviet Unionand the United States.
The Shenzhou-5, atop a China-made Long March II F carrier rocket, blasted off at 9 a.m. sharp Wednesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu province, and entered its preset orbit in about 10 minutes.
"The launch is a complete success," Li Jinai, director-general of China's manned spaceflight program, gave the official announcement at 9:42 a.m. Wednesday.
Chinese President Hu Jintao watched the launch at the mission-control center of the Jiuquan launch center.
The successful launch of Shenzhou-5 is "the glory of our great motherland and a mark for the initial victory of the country's first manned space flight and for the significant, historic step of the Chinese people in the advance of climbing over the peak of the world's science and technology", said Hu after the launch was declared a success.
"I feel good," said Yang Liwei, 38, China's first astronaut in his first report from the space. The spacecraft is operating normally in its orbit, he added.
Yang, a former fighter pilot of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force with a flight experience of 1,350 hours, is now a member of the China's first Astronauts Team trained at home. He holds the military rank of lieutenant colonel.
Yang, along with two of his teammates Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng who served as "backup candidates", was introduced to a limited number of journalists several hours prior to the liftoff. He expressed full confidence in the success of the country's first-ever spacefaring in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Yang, the first space traveler in China's 5,000-year history, was seated in the re-entry module of Shenzhou-5 at 6:15 a.m., and his movements could be closely monitored through the large screen in the mission-control center of the Jiuquan Launch Center.
Sources at the launch center said that while the spacecraft wason its way to outer space, Yang was reading a flight manual and looked composed and at ease.
The Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, 8.86 meters tall and 7,790 kilogramsin weight, is scheduled to orbit the earth 14 times before touching down on the vast grassland of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.