Space capsule lands in Inner Mongolia

Mission will boost economy and defence

BEIJING: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said it is the Chinese people’s persistent aspiration to develop the manned spaceflight technologies for the peaceful exploration and use of the outer space.

“The successful mission marked a milestone and great leap forward of China’s space technology development as China became the third country capable of spacewalk,” said Mr. Wen after the landing of the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft. Mr. Wen congratulated the taikonauts and the staff, saying: “It is a new important success in our nation’s space technology field, and the country and the people will always treasure up your historical achievements.”

The success would also play a significant role for the development of the economy, technology and national defence, as well as for the promotion of national solidarity in the modernisation drive, he added.

Mission ends

Earlier, the Shenzhou-7 space module carrying the three taikonauts landed safely on Sunday afternoon in China’s northern grassland. Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, and Jing Haipeng came back from a 68-hour flight, which included a 25-minute spacewalk on Saturday. “It was a glorious mission, full of challenges with a perfect result. I’m proud of my country,” said Mr. Zhai, sitting on a chair after emerging from the module. Mr. Liu said: “Before I took off, I told you the Chinese taikonauts are the best. Thank the motherland and the people.” Mr. Jing said: “We could felt the care of the country and people while in the abysmal space. Now we have safely returned.”

Mr. Wen, who was at the Beijing ground control centre to watch the landing, said the mission was “a victory of the Chinese space and technological field and a monumental achievement in the Socialist causes.”

“Your historical feat will be remembered by the country and the people,” said Mr. Wen, delivering a congratulatory note from the central authorities.

The space capsule was suspended down by a 1,000-square-metre parachute and landed on its flank at Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia, where 300 search and rescue staff waited.

Taikonauts safe

The taikonauts were examined by doctors and adapted themselves to the gravitation on the Earth before exiting the module. They were taken to a hospital in the Inner Mongolian capital of Hohhot for medical examination and are scheduled to fly back to Beijing on Monday for a two-week quarantine.

During the spacewalk on Saturday, Mr. Zhai wore a hulking $4-million homemade Feitian space suit and spent 25 minutes outside the spacecraft. Tethered to the craft with two safety wires and a long electric cord providing oxygen and communications, he moved slowly along a set of handrails around the orbiter. “Shenzhou-7 is now outside the spacecraft. I feel well. I am here greeting the Chinese people and people of the whole world,” he said. He waved a Chinese flag handed over by Mr. Liu.

Later he retrieved a test sample of solid lubricant placed outside the orbiter, as part of an experiment to test the durability of the materials. After the spacewalk, he was congratulated by China’s President Hu Jintao, who watched live transmission of the spacewalk. Mr. Hu hailed the spacewalk as a breakthrough and thanked the trio for their devotion and excellent performance.

He inquired of their health and experience in space through a phone. Other tasks of the mission included carrying out trials of satellite data relay and releasing a 40-kg companion satellite, which was left in space with the orbital module. The live telecast was watched by millions of Chinese and met with applauses and cheers by crowds before outdoor screens and office TV sets. — Xinhua