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Chinese space and sea explorers unleash national pride

By Zhou Erjie (Xinhua)

10:58, June 20, 2012

BEIJING, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Two groups of Chinese explorers have drawn a huge amount of public attention and unleashed national pride in the country's online community with scientific feats stretching from the faraway heavens to the depths of the sea.

One group set a new national record of 6,965 meters for a deep-sea dive Tuesday while the other are working and living in a space lab after completing China's first-ever manned space docking procedure a day earlier.

Netizens noted the concurrent feats echoed a poetic line uttered by the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in the 1960s: "We can clasp the moon in the ninth heaven and seize turtles deep down in the five seas."

"It is unimaginable that Chairman Mao's wild aspirations have become reality in China today," said an Internet user named "caolieju" on China's popular tweeting service Sina Weibo. "It's a very proud time to be Chinese."

One called "duanjiaqi" simply wrote: "Did you see that, Grandpa Mao?"

China's manned deep-sea submersible, the Jiaolong, reached a depth of 6,965 meters below sea level Tuesday during its second dive into the Mariana Trench, surpassing a fresh national record set earlier in the day.

Less than a day earlier, three Chinese astronauts, including the country's first female astronaut Liu Yang, successfully carried out an automated docking procedure and entered the orbiting space lab module Tiangong-1 for the first time Monday afternoon.

Before the Shenzhou-9 liftoff Saturday afternoon, divers aboard the submersible wished the astronauts success from 6,055 meters below the sea while Shenzhou mission space engineers also kept a close watch on happenings under the sea.

"Both Shenzhou and Jiaolong are undoubtedly significant events in the history of China's science and technology," said Wang Zhonggui, deputy chief engineer of the manned space program. "As an engineer, I am keeping a close eye on their progress."

"We share the same happiness at success and bitterness at failure as we arduously ascend to the scientific pinnacle," said Qian Weiping, a leading communication engineer in the manned space program.

However, some more sober-minded netizens pointed out these achievements lag behind those of more advanced countries.

"The two feats are encouraging, but in deep-water and space exploration, China has a long way to go before catching up with the United States," a tweet said, citing the near 11,000-meter sea dive of the submersible Trieste and the first Moon walk, both achieved by the United States in the 1960s.

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