China's 16-year-old manned space program reached a new climax Sunday with the successful landing ofShenzhou-7 spaceship, bringing one fifth of the world's population closer to the space.
It took the country nine years from its first unmanned spaceship to the maiden spacewalk -- the first spaceman in 2003, two astronauts on board in 2005 and the first spacewalker on Sept. 27, 2008.
Space scientists said the new progress marked a significant breakthrough in the second of the country's three-stage manned space program.
The new triumph coincided with the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up drive, the broad political and economic background behind the fast growing space program.
In the past three decades, the country recorded a miracle of economic growth, from an economically strait country to the world's fourth largest economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). Increasing economic strength laid a firm foundation for the usually costly manned space program.
Consequently, a vigorous economy, together with reforms in many sectors of the society, required and resulted in booming creativity and scientific dynamics.
Although well known for its manufacturing, the country is moving fast in the latest science fields. Continuous and increasing government investment in scientific researches and education contributed key technological progress and talents to the space program.
For the program, Chinese scientists developed the carrier rockets with high reliability and safety as well as spaceships keeping up with the world's best in the 1990s. They also worked out unique rocket launch model and space medical engineering and established a monitor and control network made up of bases on shore and off shore, whose efficiency is one of the world's best.
In addition, as a huge and complex mission, the space program required close cooperation among different sectors. Thousands of institutions and scientists worked under one command with high efficiency, displaying the country's capability to mobilize resources for a big mission in a short time.
As Wang Zhaoyao, spokesman of the country's manned space program, said at Sunday's press conference, starting from Shenzhou-7, the country have more work to do, a "simple" space lab in 2011, unmanned and manned orbiter docking tests and a permanent space laboratory in 2020.
However, the space mission is not always high up there. It is down to the earth as well. Thanks to the program, more than 1,800 new inventions are put into civilian use, benefiting people's daily life in satellite communication, weather forecast, disaster relief and even new foods. Every step further into the space brings the life on earth a step closer to the best.
Having a long history of curiosity about the space, the "Divine Vessel" carried many Chinese closer to a space of wonder. Watching the astronaut's strenuous spacewalk on live telecast were farmers in remote villages, migrant workers in their dormitories and city white collars, boosting the number of space fans.
In a country's path of development, there are many landmark events to enrich its collective memory. The breathtaking moments in manned space program are certainly among them, just like the Beijing Olympics. One landmark after another, the Chinese people enter a wider world, bear greater responsibility and nurture a bigger dream.
This is a dream of a prosperous motherland but also a dream of exploring the unknown shared by all human beings.