| GEO World|
| China sends spacecraft into space|
| Updated at: 1950 PST, Thursday, September 25, 2008|
SHANGHAI: China’s Shenzhou VII spacecraft blasted off Thursday evening, carrying three Chinese astronauts into space on China’s third manned space mission in the past five years, according to the official News Agency.
The three-day mission is part of Project 921, China’s ambitious manned space program, and was expected to include the country’s first attempt at a space walk, which would make China only the third country to accomplish the feat, after Russia and the United States.
The Chinese government has spent billions of dollars in recent years building up a space program that it hopes will establish a space station by 2020 and eventually put a man on the moon.
The planned launch of Shenzhou VII from western China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, was to be carried live on television, following a liftoff ceremony attended by President Hu Jintao.
The mission, which is being covered extensively in the Chinese media, is another milestone for a country that got a late start in space exploration but is now aggressively launching commercial satellites, putting men in space and even shooting down aging satellites.
Russia and the United States conducted their first space walks in 1965 and in 1969 America became the first country to put a man on the moon..
China is only the third nation to launch a man into space. India and Japan are now aggressively developing their own space programs, creating some competition in Asia for space flight.
China says its space program is speeding along, often with Chinese technology, helping establish the country as a technological power and bringing another dose of pride to the nation following the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.