The UK’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has congratulated China on the successful launch of their first manned space mission. A Long March 2F rocket blasted off from the Gobi desert launch pad at 0900 (0100 GMT), and the Shenzhou V spacecraft was orbiting Earth 10 minutes later.

The craft, carrying a single astronaut, Yang Liwei, is expected to circle the planet 14 times, returning to Earth after a flight of about 22 hours.

The UK’s Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury, who is currently in Beijing said,

“The UK’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, would like to congratulate China for this successful launch. He has asked me to say how impressed he is by the dedication and skill of all those involved in this historic mission.”