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Shenzhou IV returns to Earth
   CCTV.COM   2003-01-06 09:01:14   
    China's fourth unmanned spacecraft, the descent module of the Shenzhou IV, is back on Earth. The spacecraft touched down in the middle part of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 7:16 pm Beijing time on Sunday. Top officials say the successful launch and return of the space vehicle have laid a solid foundation for the country's plans to send Chinese astronauts into space.

    Shenzhou IV landed in the designated area on schedule, touching down on the snowy land in North China's Inner Mogolia Autonomous Region. Experts say that the Shenzhou IV has all the functions of a manned spacecraft. Dummy astronauts were included in the craft to test its life support system. The re-entry vehicle, containing materials from experiments carried out in-flight, is being transported to Beijing for technical analysis. Its mission lasted six days and 18 hours, and the spacecraft circled the earth 108 times.

    Xia Changfa, General Command of Manned Spacecraft Landing System, said: "The successful return of Shenzhou IV shows China's technology for manned flights is becoming mature, which lays a solid foundation for manned flights."

    The landing of the Shenzhou IV was closely controlled by scientists at the Aerospace Command and Control Center in Beijing.

    Hu Shixiang, Deputy-Command of the Manned Spacecraft Project, announced the historic moment:

    "The space program is a major concern of the central government. Member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CPC, Li Changchun, and a number of high-ranking officials watched live the return of the spacecraft.

    Chinese President Jiang Zemin telephoned to congratulate all those who made the event a success. He urged scientists to continue the follow-up research.

    A week ago, the Long March II carrier rocket boosted the spacecraft into orbit. It was the fourth successful test in three years and part of the country's plan to launch a manned space flight.

    During its circle, the Shenzhou IV was tracked and controlled by the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center through its four 'Yuanwang' aerospace survey ships stationed in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and its ground control stations. The spacecraft performed several hundred manoeuvres in space, including unfolding its solar panels.

    The return module separated itself from the orbital section, which will be left to continue its path around the Earth and conduct further experimentation.

    A number of research projects were conducted in the spaceship during the flight. These included earth observation, material science and space astronomy. Experts say that all the instruments aboard were functioning normally, and collected a great deal of test data.

    Over the past decades, China has been working at the challenge of sending a man into space. Now that dream is one step closer.

    The successful mission and landing of Shenzhou IV ends a chapter in China's space programme, and signals the start of another - perhaps the most important phase. For the next time when we watch a capsule DES-CEND to earth, we may well be welcoming back the first Chinese astronaut from space."

Editor: Zhao Xuan

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