Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - China's historic first manned space flight has ended successfully, with the capsule carrying astronaut Yang Liwei landing safely in Inner Mongolia on Thursday morning (6.23 p.m. Wednesday in the eastern U.S.).
The Xinhua news agency quoted an official with the space program as reporting that Yang had been recovered alive and well.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao hailed the space flight as a complete success, and television footage showed him congratulating Yang, a lieutenant colonel in the Chinese air force, by telephone.
The Shenzhou (divine vessel) 5 was taken into orbit on Wednesday morning local time by a Long March rocket and traveled more than 600,000 miles as it orbited the earth over the following 21 hours.
The achievement comes four decades after the former Soviet Union and the United States put men into orbit. No other country has done so.
China has given notice that its space ambitions include a lunar landing and the establishment of a base on the moon to exploit natural resources there.
Some U.S. experts believe the space program has been driven, in part, by China's desire to develop space-based military capabilities, some of which could be used in the event of a future conflict over Taiwan, possibly involving the U.S.
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