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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Tributes for China's first spaceman
China has been welcomed into the elite club of space-faring nations by countries around the world.

Yang Liwei, AFP
China's first astronaut: Yang Liwei is big news
Russia, the first country to put a man in space more than 40 years ago, led the tributes.

Russian space agency first deputy, Nikolai Moiseyev, said: "We welcome this development and congratulate China for joining the club of space powers that have their own manned space programmes."

The European Space Agency (Esa) described China's first manned flight as an "outstanding achievement", likely to open up a new era of wider cooperation in space.

"China becomes the third country to send human beings into space, demonstrating the reliability of its aerospace technology," Esa Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.

Shenzhou model, AP

Scientists in India, which recently announced plans for an unmanned Moon mission in 2008, also congratulated China.

"It is absolutely fantastic," said a former head of India's Space Research Organisation, UR Rao.

India had the scientific capability for a manned mission, he added, but lacked government support.

In Tokyo, the response was similar. The Japanese Government praised China for its success but said its own space efforts were not lagging behind.

Like India, Japan has focused on entering the commercial satellite launch market and has no firm commitment to manned flight.

Smooth launch

Pakistan, a long-term ally of China, said the flight was a very important milestone in the progress and advancement made by China in space technology.

President, General Pervez Musharraf, said the launch "brings pride to China as to the Asian continent".

A more formal response from Washington is expected later on Wednesday but the US space agency's (Nasa) administrator Sean O'Keefe said: "This launch is an important achievement in the history of human exploration."

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"China joins an extremely exclusive club"


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