BEIJING, Oct. 18 -- The successful return of China's second manned spacecraft, Shenzhou VI, early yesterday morning let the nation heave a collective sigh of relief and celebrate a new milestone in aerospace history.
In astronaut Fei Junlong's hometown Kunshan in East China's Jiangsu Province neighbours swarmed at his home and set off firecrackers to celebrate his return. Fei Changbao, his father, said: "I believed my son could come back safely because I trust in the country's power. And we also had a successful example Yang Liwei's successful return in Shenzhou V."
Fei's parents reportedly refused a wave of gifts from enterprises. Among the gifts was a villa from a local real estate developer built on the shore of Yangcheng Lake and worth about 1 million yuan (US$120,000).
Although the house in which they live now was built 20 years ago and has become worn, Fei's parents said their son had told them in advance that the family should stay low-key and not accept such things.
"The municipal government released a notice on Sunday awarding the family the title 'hero's family' as a spiritual encouragement and a villa as a material reward," said Li Jinhai, an official with the Kunshan government.
Fei's parents received the real estate certificate yesterday morning. If everything goes smoothly, they will soon say goodbye to their old two-storey house.
In Nie Haisheng's hometown, Zaoyang in Central China's Hubei Province, villagers were busy building a temporary stage for the performance of local operas in celebration.
Citizens in other cities also expressed their excitement and congratulations in different ways.
In Beijing, Liu Yunpeng of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China said: "I just came back to Beijing from a business trip in Hebei Province. I did not know the exact time of the return. But when I got the news from the broadcast on the train this early morning, I suddenly woke up with a strong feeling of happiness."
Students in Shanghai also felt excited about the return.
"I am very excited about the news of Shenzhou VI," said Cao Qunshen, a Junior Two student at Siping Middle School.
What made him even more excited is that he has been elected to portray Fei in the celebration.
Cao and Zhang Yunfan, a Junior Three student at Siping who portrayed Nie, are to put on a live show illustrating the takeoff procedure of Shenzhou VI.
"We learnt a lot in preparing for the performance," Cao said, "such as the whole structure of the aircraft, its difference from Shenzhou V, and its design."
In Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, Cheng Cuilan said she was particularly proud of the great achievement China has made in developing its aerospace industry.
Besides watching the live broadcast of the launch on Wednesday morning, Cheng said she has been keeping an eye on Shenzhou VI and the two astronauts, via local TV programmes and other media in the past five days.
"Actually, I am not alone in expressing deep interest in the news about the Shenzhou VI spacecraft," Cheng, a 35-year-old white-collar worker, told China Daily yesterday.
"That indicates the people have also been much concerned about the development of the country," Cheng added.
Liu Jinting, vice-president of Guangdong Dayinxiang Group Company, said the successful return of Shenzhou VI was encouraging news to all Chinese people at home and abroad.
"It will be positive to my company's technological innovation and expansion of production," said Liu, whose company mainly produces health drinks in Guangdong Province.
Liu said his company had donated 150 boxes of quality health wine to both the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Centre and the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Northwest China's Gansu Province to celebrate the successful return of Shenzhou VI.
In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said yesterday that the Shenzhou mission demonstrates the country's national strength and enhances China's valour and confidence.
"We see a bright future for our country from the successful mission of Shenzhou VI," Tsang said in a letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
He also invited the two astronauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, and other space mission personnel to visit Hong Kong. China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei, visited Hong Kong after the Shenzhou V mission ended in 2003.
Edmund Ho Hau-wah, chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region, also asked the central government to arrange for Fei and Nie to tour Macao.
Representing citizens of the region, the chief executive congratulated the successful launch and touchdown of the country's second space mission, saying: "Shenzhou VI demonstrates that Chinese people are capable of exploring the infinite universe in a peaceful manner and with purpose."
Lien Chan, honorary chairman of the Taiwan-based Chinese Kuomintang Party (KMT), also extended greetings yesterday as he toured the coastal city of Dalian in Northeast China's Liaoning Province on a two-week visit, the Xinhua News Agency said yesterday.
(Source: China Daily)