BEIJING: China marks 10 years since it first sent a human into space Tuesday, with its ambitious programme rocketing ahead while rival NASA is largely closed due to the US government shutdown.

Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times during his 21-hour flight aboard the Shenzhou 5 in 2003, blazing a trail into the cosmos for China.

More than 40 years after Yuri Gagarin’s groundbreaking journey, the mission made China only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the US to carry out an independent manned spaceflight. At the time, Beijing was so concerned about the viability of the mission that at the last minute it cancelled a nationwide live television broadcast of the launch.–AFP