September 29, 2008
Chinese Astronauts Touch Down After Space Walk
By Emma Graham-Harrison
Three Chinese astronauts have returned to Earth after a 68-hour voyage and a space walk that the country's leaders hailed as a major technological achievement. Their Shenzhou VII ("Sacred vessel") spacecraft parachuted down to the steppes of northern Inner Mongolia at dusk. Doctors rushed to open the capsule and check the men as they readjusted to gravity and recovered from the punishing re- entry.
China's rapidly advancing programme has raised disquiet among Western governments and in Japan that it may have military ambitions in space, especially after conducting an anti-satellite missile test last year.
Mr Zhai's brief outing in a Chinese-designed space suit that cost 2.4m capped a year in which the country has both coped with the tragedy of the devastating Sichuan earthquake and revelled in the Beijing Olympics.
The ability to conduct a space walk is key to a longer-term goal of assembling a space lab and then a larger space station, and maybe one day making a landing on the moon.
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