Chinese astronauts in Shenzhou VI return safely

Monday, October 17, 2005

Shenzhou launch vehicle

China's Shenzhou VI touched down safely in Inner Mongolia at 4.32 am (2032 GMT) after being in space for five days. The two astronauts were healthy and the mission was considered successful by Mission Control.

The Shenzhou VI orbited the Earth 76 times during the mission.

Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, the astronauts aboard the flight, were watched by Chinese around the country on national television. The Shenzhou VI is China's second manned space mission.

Hundreds of residents in Nie's hometown in northern Hebei province showed their pride by celebrating the successful mission with dragon dances and firecrackers.

The mission was conducted "entirely for peaceful purposes", President Wen Jiabao said to allay concerns that China's military might be using space for other matters.

Yang Liwei was the first Chinese in space and orbited the Earth in the Shenzhou V 14 times in 2003.

The space program is hoped to instill patriotism and cultivate a love for science and technology in the next generation of Chinese.

"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," said the Xinhua state news agency.

China is the third country to put people into space, after the former Soviet Union and the USA.

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