BEIJING // China's three astronauts emerged safely from their space capsule today at the end of a 68-hour mission which included a space walk.
Chinese state TV showed them emerge from the capsule, to the applause of mission control, and wave to the cameras before being given bouquets of flowers. The astronauts, who said their bodies "feel good", will be taken to a hospital in the Inner Mongolian capital, Hohhot, for tests and are scheduled to fly back to Beijing on Monday.
Earlier today the descent capsule of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft was seen drifting down onto to earth in footage broadcast live on state-run CCTV. Their return came a day after commander Zhai Zhigang made China just the third country to conduct a spacewalk, after the United States and the former Soviet Union four decades ago. The astronauts' apparently flawless return brings a successful conclusion to a mission that has been hailed in China as a landmark in the country's quest to become a space power.
Under China's fledgling space programme, two more unmanned craft will be launched by 2010, as well as another manned spaceship with a crew of three to start work on building a lab or space station, according to state media. After China sent its first man into space in 2003, it followed up with a two-man mission in 2005. * Reuters & AFP