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Last Updated: Wednesday October 12 2005 13:25 GMT

China sends astronauts into space

China's Shenzhou 6 rocket

Two Chinese astronauts have blasted into orbit, in the country's second manned space mission.

Ex-fighter pilots Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng lifted off aboard the Shenzhou VI craft, from Jiuquan in China's Gobi desert, at 9am local time.

The two men will orbit Earth for five days, carrying out experiments. Mr Fei said: "Feeling pretty good," in the first broadcast from the ship.

It comes almost exactly two years since China's first manned space flight.

Chinese television reported that the two men ate pineapple-filled moon cakes for their first breakfast in space.

They will circle the Earth up to 80 times before they land in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

China's first shot into space two years ago made it the third country, after the US and Russia, to send someone into orbit.

China hopes to set up a space station within five years, and eventually land an astronaut on the moon.