BEIJING, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- China awarded people who made outstanding contributions to the Shenzhou VII manned space flight during a meeting here Friday morning.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other top leaders Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and He Guoqiang were all in attendance.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang announced a decision, jointly made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Council and the Central Military Commission, to award Zhai Zhigang the title of "Space Flight Hero." Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng each received the title of "Heroic Astronaut".
Chinese President Hu Jintao presented the three with medals and certificates commemorating their outstanding performance during the spacewalk.
China became the third country in the world to complete a spacewalk on Sept. 25.
Hu said it was a small step from a Chinese astronaut, but a big step for the nation's scientific and technological innovation.
He said the successful spacewalk was an important milestone in the country's space flight history and was one of the major achievements in building an innovative nation.
Hu extended his greetings and congratulations to the three astronauts, and all the people who had contributed to the country's space flight cause.
He also thanked the Chinese people, including those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as well as overseas Chinese and foreign friends, who supported the country's space research and development.
China's manned space flight program was launched 16 years ago. It developed from an un-piloted space flight to missions with more than one astronaut, one of whom completed a spacewalk.
Hu said this success showed the country had greatly increased its economic, scientific and comprehensive power after 30 years of reform and opening up.
He noted that the practice of launching manned space flight proved scientific development is a necessity for achieving the goals set for the country's development. It also showed the political advantage of a socialist system which was able to produce great national cohesion.
Innovation is the key to the nation's development, and patriotism is the inspiration for achieving all the great causes, Hu added.
"We always have to take reform and innovation as the greatest inspiration and continuously stimulate the creativity and vitality of the whole society," Hu said. "We should regard improving the ability of innovation as a strategic task and strengthen the national scientific and technological capacity."
He added that the country should make it a basic principle to cultivate a team of talented people with innovative ideas.
He said that reform of scientific and technological systems should be deepened to promote the construction of a national innovative system.
Chang Wanquan, chief commander of the manned space project said the success of Shenzhou VII's space flight showed the great strength of national cohesion and boosted the confidence of people working for space missions to make new achievements.
Chang said that more than 110 research institutes were involved in the mission. More than 3,000 organizations nationwide were offering coordination and help.
Zhai Zhigang, speaking on behalf of the Shenzhou VII space flight team, said completing the mission successfully was his lifelong dream and biggest honor.
He said he took a small step in space but a big step for the Chinese nation.
Shang Zhi, general director of the mission's spacecraft system, said Chinese scientists and researchers are ready to begin the next phase of space missions, which focus on rendezvousing and docking spacecraft in orbit. Zhi also wants to manufacture a space laboratory.