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Chinese Spacecraft Returns from Successful Mission - 2002-04-02


A Chinese spacecraft, designed to carry people in orbit, returned safely to earth Monday, according to China's space officials. Officials say the un-manned test flight brings China a step closer to its goal of putting people in space by 2005.

The space mission was big news on Chinese state television. The pictures showed an olive-green spacecraft resembling an inverted, narrow tea cup, after its week-long orbital flight, sitting on the ground in the north China region of Inner Mongolia.

Shenzhou - three was launched a week ago and orbited the earth 108 times. Chinese scientists will analyze information on experimental samples on board the returning module.

Chinese officials say the latest Shenzhou mission "laid a solid basis" for the nation's plans to safely launch people into space in a few years. The spacecraft carried mannequins and instruments designed to monitor conditions inside the capsule.

On return to earth, the capsule was proclaimed "technically suitable for astronauts."

China's effort to develop a manned space program, code named "Project 921," has seen two previous Shenzhou missions in 1999 and 2001.

So far, only the Soviet Union and the United States have developed manned space programs, although many nations, including China, launch satellites into orbit for research, communications, or military purposes.

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