A stratospherically important anniversary was marked in China in October as the country celebrated ten years of manned space exploration.
In 2003, China became the third nation to send a man into space when Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times in the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft before returning home safely.
Hesitations over the certainty of the mission’s success caused its live television broadcast to be cancelled at the last minute.
A decade on, China seems ready to take the lead in space exploration. NASA’s budget has been drastically reduced over the past decade and in the meantime, China’s global scientific, technological and economical status has continued to rise.
China has sent ten astronauts to space - eight men and two women - and has also launched the space module Tiangong-1 into orbit. Future plans include landing a man and an as yet unnamed rover on the moon, as well as the construction of a space station by 2023. The International Space Station, operated by the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, is slated for retirement by that time.
China even has its own Cold War-style space race, with India seeking to send a rocket to Mars while its rival focuses on the Moon.