BEIJING, Wednesday, Oct. 15 – The Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou 5 blasted off from the Gobi Desert on Wednesday carrying a single astronaut. The launching left government leaders jubilant yet also anxiously awaiting his safe return so China can stake its claim as one of the world’s elite space-faring nations.
The launching took place about 9 a.m., according to the state-run television network, CCTV. At about 9:30, the network showed a videotape of the rocket soaring to the heavens.
The Shenzhou 5, or Divine Vessel, is expected to orbit Earth 14 times before returning after a voyage of roughly 21 hours.
If successful, the mission would make China the third nation to send a man into space, coming more than four decades after the Soviet Union and the United States accomplished the feat at the height of the cold war.