It was the moment the most populous nation in the world had been waiting for, and a huge cheer went up as China’s two astronauts came back down to earth.After five days in orbit, the country’s second manned spacecraft, Shenzou VI, landed safely in Mongolia. The two-man crew are now national heroes – the mission had aroused a wave of patriotism approaching fever pitch. It was just two years ago that China became the third country after the United States and the Soviet Union to put a man in space. Now Beijing says this second mission confirms its technological progress and it plans to accelerate its space programme with a third manned launch – this time including a spacewalk – in 2007. China is fast becoming a major player in the satellite launch industry – the increasingly reliable Long March rockets have already sent 50 into orbit, many for foreign clients. The country also hopes to establish a space station within the next five years.
China celebrates as astronauts come back down to earth