Chinese astronauts blast off
A rocket carrying two Chinese astronauts has blasted off from a base in China's desert northwest, returning the country's manned space program to orbit two years after its history-making first flight.
The mission, reportedly due to last up to five days, is an effort by the communist government to declare its status as a rising world power with technological triumphs to match its rapid economic growth. It is only the third country to launch a human into orbit on its own, after Russia and the United States.
The Long March rocket carrying astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng lifted off at 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) from the heavily guarded Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.
In a sign of official confidence, the communist government broke with the military-run space program's usual secrecy and showed the launch live on state television.
Images of Fei and Nie in their cockpit as the craft roared toward orbit were broadcast live to hundreds of millions of Chinese television viewers.