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Three Chinese astronauts safely returned to Earth after a successful space
Three Chinese astronauts safely returned to Earth after a successful space mission, state television reported on Sunday.

The capsulate with the astronauts landed at 5:37 p.m. Beijing time (9:37 GMT) on Sunday in the grasslands of China's northern Inner Mongolia province, state television said.

China's Shenzhou-7 spacecraft lifted off on Thursday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the country's northwestern Gansu province, bringing three astronauts on a three-day mission at an orbit with a maximum altitude of 343 km (213 miles).

On Saturday, a Chinese astronaut conducted the first spacewalk in the history of the Chinese space program and successfully returned to his spacecraft, state television showed.

During the 15-minute spacewalk, which started at 16.45 Beijing time (08.45 GMT), Zhai Zhigang, 42, waved China's national flag and carried out several equipment tests.

The astronaut wore a $4.4 million space suit weighing 120-kg (265 lb), which was developed by Chinese specialists with the help of Russian technologies and Russian experts monitored the suits throughout the mission.

With this achievement, China becomes the third country in the world after Russia and the United States to carry out successful spacewalks.

China, which previously sent astronauts on space missions in 2003 and 2005, has recently unveiled comprehensive space exploration plans. The country plans to build its own orbital space station and create a space laboratory before 2020.


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