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Unmanned Spaceship "Shenzhou IV" Lands
China's unmanned spaceship "Shenzhou IV" returned to earth on schedule Sunday evening from its seven-day flight.

The spaceship touched down at 7:16 p.m. in the designated area in the middle of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China, according to officials in charge of the space program.

Experts said the return of the spaceship represents a complete success of the fourth test flight of the program, which began in 1992.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, offered his congratulations Sunday on the successful return of the spaceship, after being briefed on the ongoing manned space program by leading officials in charge of the program.

A senior official said that the successful launch and return of "Shenzhou IV" shows China' s technology for manned flights is becoming increasingly mature, which lays a solid foundation for eventually sending up manned flights.

Earlier Sunday, China's ocean-based aerospace control ship "Yuanwang III" ordered the re-entry module's return while "Shenzhou IV" was orbiting Earth for the 107th time over the south Atlantic.

Another module remained aloft and will continue to orbit the planet for an unspecified period for space science and application experiments.

Upon receiving the order, the capsule's re-entry vehicle disengaged from its orbiter, and its retropack started, generating power for the spaceship to return to Earth from outer space.

The spaceship was first spotted flying toward Earth by the Xi'an Satellite Monitoring Center, which was in charge of the re-entry module's recovery.

The spaceship was later locked by radar by another survey station when it was about 30 km from the landing site in Inner Mongolia, where temperatures reached minus 30 degrees centigrade.

Like previous "Shenzhou" capsules, the spaceship parachuted down to the icy cold vast plain, with its parachute covering 1,200square meters.

The spaceship was quickly located by airborne and ground recovery teams in the snow-covered landing site. Helicopters hovered as recovery technicians drove toward the re-entry module.

During its space mission that lasted six days and 18 hours, "Shenzhou IV" circled the earth 108 times.

It was launched from the Jiuquan Manned Space Launch Site in northwest China's Gansu Province at 0:40 a.m. on December 30 atop a Long March II F rocket.

During the flight, the spaceship 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, according to the experts.

The spacecraft successfully performed several hundred moves in space, including unfolding its solar panels.

Experts said "Shenzhou IV", the fourth unmanned capsule of China's ongoing manned space program, is identical to manned spaceships.

All the systems for manned space flight, including an astronaut system and life-support sub-system have been fitted on the spaceship and tested, said the experts.

Chinese would-be astronauts entered the spaceship prior to the launch to train.

A number of research projects were conducted in the spaceship during the flight, involving earth observation, material science and space astronomy.

All the instruments abroad functioned normally, and collected a great deal of test data and scientific material while the spacecraft was orbiting, said the experts.

Chinese scientists will analyze and study instruments and experimental samples aboard the module, which will soon be transported to Beijing.

Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, and a number of other high-ranking officials watched live the return of the spacecraft at the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center.

China launched its unmanned "Shenzhou I", "Shenzhou II" and "Shenzhou III" spacecraft in November 1999, January 2001 and March 2002, respectively.

(Xinhua News Agency January 5, 2002)

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