In an historic step, China has become the third nation to successfully send a man into space. This has come more than forty years after the former Soviet Union launched the first manned spacecraft. This report from Francis Marcus:
Half an hour after the spacecraft blasted off, China state television showed footage of the launch, the rocket climbing slowly into the clear blue sky. Although it was filmed from a distance, the roar as it thrust upwards was clearly audible. A plume of white smoke marked the falling away of the rocket's first stage.
The launch initially had been expected to be shown live. But the government's cautious media management seems to have dictated that that would have been too risky.
Provided the mission concludes successfully though, the state media are likely to fuel a surge of triumphant patriotism. It'll be a far cry from the legendary Ming dynasty official hundreds of years ago who's believed to have tried to propel himself into space using gunpowder rockets and a couple of kites with disastrous results: and many Chinese will feel their country has taken a proud step towards modernity.
That's despite the fact that on the internet bulletin boards in recent days, a small but vocal minority from the cyber chattering classes have criticised the venture as a waste of money that could have been better spent on the poor.