Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) shakes hands with an engineer at Beijing Space Command and Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, on Sept. 28, 2008. Premier Wen Jiabao watched the return of China's Shenzhou-7 spacecraft in a live transmission in the center. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said it is the Chinese people's persistent aspiration to develop the manned space flight technologies for the peaceful exploration and use of the outer space.
"The successful mission marked a milestone and great leap forward of China's space technology development as China became the third country capable of spacewalk," Wen said at the Beijing ground control center right after the landing of the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft.
Wen congratulated the taikonaut heroes and all the staff workers, saying that "it is a new important success in our nation's space technology field, and the country and the people will always treasure up your historical achievements."
The great success will also play a significant role for the development of the country's economy, technology and national defence, as well as for the promotion of national solidarity in the country's modernization drive, he said.
The next target of China's space project would be the establishment of a space station, said Wang Zhaoyao, the spokesman with China's manned space program, at a press conference late Sunday.
The nation plans to set up a "simple" space lab in 2011 and a manned space station in 2020.
The EVA was also making preparations for a moon landing, which was a big challenge and also a strategic move so that it was necessary for the country to make some achievement in the field, Wang said.
But he did not reveal the timetable of the moon landing mission, saying that "more investigation will be done before the decision."
"I believe, Chinese people will realize the grand plan in the near future," he said.
China has no military intention in releasing the small companion satellite during the mission, said Gu Yidong, researcher of the Institute of Optics and Electronics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, at the press conference.
Gu cited the countries who had also launched such satellites, including Russia, America and Japan. "I cannot see any military attempt amid that. I believe they all aimed at peaceful technology development, and so did China," he said.
The Shenzhou-7 space module carrying three taikonauts landed safely by parachute Sunday afternoon in China's northern grassland, after a landmark spacewalk mission that leads the country further in its space exploration.
Astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, and Jing Haipeng came back from a 68-hour flight, which included a 20-minute spacewalk on Saturday.
Other tasks of the mission included carrying out trials of satellite data relay and releasing a 40-kilogram companion satellite.
China became the third country after the United States and Russia to send a human into orbit in 2003, followed with a two-man mission in 2005. The successful spacewalk made China the third to master the extravehicular activity (EVA) technology. Source: Xinhua