Shenzhou IV Returns to Earth

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After a 6 day, 18 hour mission, Shenzhou IV's command module returned to Earth and landed at 7:16 PM local time in a pre-designated landing site in the middle of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China.

According to Xinhua "Experts in charge of China's manned space program said the return of the spaceship represents a complete success of the fourth test flight of the program, which began in 1992. "The successful launch and return of 'Shenzhou IV' shows China's technology for manned flights is becoming increasingly mature, which lays a solid foundation for eventually sending up manned flights," said the experts.

This mission was a full scale rehearsal for a manned mission which China now says will occur later in 2003. Shenzhou IV was controlled by the Aerospace Command and Control Center in Beijing. In addition to ground-based tracking assets, mission command and control was maintained through 4 "Yuanwang" tracking ships positioned across the world in the Indian ocean, the Pacific, and the Atlantic.

Shenzhou IV was outfitted with all of the life support systems required for a human crew. Chinese astronauts are currently undergoing training in preparation for a manned mission later this year.

It also supported a number of experiments covering Earth observation, materials science, and astronomy.

As has been the case with previous Shenzhou missions, the spacecraft's orbital module will continue to operate in space for an unspecified peroiod of time before being commanded to perform a destructive reentry.


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