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China's First Manned Spacecraft Blasts off

China's first manned spacecraft, the Shenzhou-5, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu at 9 a.m. this morning. The spacecraft, atop a Long March II F rocket, was piloted by Yang Liwei, 38, a lieutenant colonel of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Yang, a member of the PLA's Astronauts Team, was trained at home.

The Shenzhou mission, if successful, will make China the third nation to send a man into outer space, following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Yang, seated in the orbital capsule, was reading a flight manual and looked composed and at ease, sources at the mission-control center of the Jiuquan launch center said.


The astronaut's movements could be monitored from the large screen in the mission-control center.


Yang was born in June 1965 in Suizhong County of northeast China's Liaoning Province and joined the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) at 18.


He graduated from the No. 8 Aviation College of the PLA Air Force in 1987 with a bachelor's degree and became a fighter pilot. As a pilot, he has had 1,350 hours of flight experience.


In January 1998, Yang became a member of China's first team of astronauts.


He was selected as the country's first astronaut for his excellent performance in the five-year training.

(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2003)


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