French Minister of Research Claudie Haignere on Wednesday hailed China for successfully launching an astronaut into space aboard the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft in a historic mission.
"The success of the launching of Long March carrying the capsule Shenzhou-5 is a historical step that marks a new spatial era," said the minister in a message to her Chinese counterpart Xu Guanhua.
"The event proves that China is a modern nation that enters the spatial activities and high technologies," said the minister who is a former astronaut. She stayed for eight days in the International Space Station in October 2001.
"It is a beautiful event, a beautiful performance. We are glad that it proceeded smoothly," she told reporters after Wednesday's weekly cabinet meeting.
"China has been among the scientific and technological powers since long time. The launch is an important element to recognize the capacity of China to put itself at the level of major international partners," she added.
(Xinhua News Agency October 16, 2003)