The lure of space has proved irrestible to China, who have successfully launched their first manned mission into orbit.

The launch of the Shenzhou V spacecraft, propelled into space by a Long March 2F rocket and carrying astronaut Yang Liwei, was welcomed by space experts around the world.

The European Space Agency described it as an “outstanding achievement”, while US space agency (Nasa) officials in Houston praised the smoothness of the launch.

Perhaps China’s and Europe’s space programs provide a sharper focus for NASA who have struggled to define a cogent mission since the Apollo missions. Despite what some critics say, I believe mastering space flight is critically important to the development of our species.

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