June 11 - A spacecraft carrying three Chinese astronauts launches from the Gobi desert with the blessing of President Xi Jingpin. Jessica Gray reports.
Liftoff... [SOT of rocket launching] China's fifth-manned space mission launched on Tuesday from the Gobi desert in the country's far west. The three astronauts are headed toward the experimental Tiangong or Heavenly Palace space lab where they will conduct research and test equipment. They are also set to give a presentation to students watching from Earth during their 15 days in space, the longest manned mission for China's space program. It is the latest step toward the development of a Chinese space station. President Xi Jinping oversaw the launch and spoke to the astronauts before they blasted off, describing their mission as "glorious and sacred". Although still far off from space superpowers Russia and the United States, China continues to advance its program amid U.S. budget cuts and trends seeing the privatization of space travel.