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UPDATED: September 28, 2008  
Taikonauts Step Out of Re-entry Module

China's Shenzhou 7 space module carrying three taikonauts landed safely by parachute Sunday afternoon in China's northern grassland, the mission ground control center announced.

Astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, and Jing Haipeng came back from a 68-hour flight, which included a monumental 20-minute spacewalk on Saturday.

The capsule was suspended down by a 1,000-square-meter parachute and landed on its flank in Siziwang Banner in central Inner Mongolia, where 300 search and rescue staff waited.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who arrived at the control center to watch the landing, clapped hands and beamed with smile when the spacecraft touched the ground on the grassland.

The taikonauts will be examined by doctors and adapt themselves to the gravitation on the Earth before exiting the module, the search headquarters told Xinhua.

They will be taken to a hospital in the Inner Mongolian capital Hohhot for medical examination and are scheduled to fly back to Beijing on Monday. The trio have to spend about two weeks in quarantine before meeting their family, said Zhai's wife Zhang Shujing.

Zhai, clad in a hulking 4-million-U.S.dollar homemade Feitian space suit, floated out of the spacecraft at 4:43 p.m. (0843 GMT) on Saturday, and became the first Chinese to leave a footprint in the universe.

The Shenzhou 7 craft blasted off at 9:10 p.m. on Thursday.

(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2008)

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