Shenzhou VI astronauts land safely

by Chris Bergin

China’s second manned spacecraft Shenzhou VI has touched down successfully in Inner Mongolia after orbiting the Earth for five days.

The country stepped up a gush of patriotic fanfare as the two astronauts reported they had landed safely and were in good health after the space capsule touched down in the remote steppes of the northern Inner Mongolia region.

They completed 76 orbits of the Earth and travelled millions of miles since Wednesday morning’s launch of the mission, which the country’s media has already hailed as a breakthrough demonstrating China’s emergence as a technological power.

The Xinhua news agency said in a commentary ahead of their return: “We’re proud of Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, and we’re even prouder of the motherland’s constantly advancing aerospace programme”.

Chinese President Hu Jintao had spoken to the astronauts by telephone over the weekend, just days after presiding over a meeting of top Communist Party leadership that spelt out the country’s plans to develop its own technological prowess.

“In times past, we couldn’t manufacture even a car or ship,” Xinhua said.

“Today, an independent, self-sufficient, constantly strengthening China has, like a miracle, become one of a handful of countries able to make the dream of spaceflight a reality.”

Colonel Yang Liwei became the first Chinese man in space when he orbited the Earth 14 times aboard the Shenzhou V in October 2003.

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