Takeaway English 随身英语
Space Heroes 太空英雄
Chinese astronaut in space
Spacewalk - a critical step for China's space programme
Three Chinese astronauts returned safely on Sunday after orbiting the Earth on board the Shengzhou-VII space capsule.

The message to the world is clear: after a slow start in space, China is catching up fast.

The spacecraft touched down in the Mongolian desert to rapturous applause from mission control in Beijing. Millions tuned in to watch the historic moment on television around the world.

Mission leader Zhai Zhigang was the first to emerge from the capsule and he was incredibly proud of their achievement.

"It was a glorious mission, full of challenges with a successful end," he said.

The mission follows China's successful hosting of the Olympics and included the country's first ever spacewalk.

Mr Zhai wore a Chinese-made spacesuit costing up to £20million (220million Yuan), and stayed outside the capsule for 15 minutes while his team mates stayed inside, monitoring his progress.

This exercise puts China as only the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to stage a successful space walk. It is also seen as a critical progression in the country's three-step space programme, with the ultimate aim to build a large space station.

Is there a new space race underway now? Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum think there is. "It is an Asian space race. It's between China, Japan, maybe Korea, certainly India," said Mr Launius.

"The Chinese, because of their full service capability – humans, robots and military – are at this point in time the leaders in that race. But those other countries have a lot of capabilities too," he added.

Meanwhile, the families of the astronauts have to wait patiently as their space heroes undergo two weeks of preventative quarantine, just in case their body defences may have been weakened by the trip.

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