BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The 1.3-billion population beamed with pride and joy Sunday, as the nation's third manned space mission Shenzhou-7 ended in success.
Hundreds gathered on Sunday afternoon in front of an outdoor screen in Heilongjiang province's Qiqihar city, the hometown of two Chinese taikonauts Zhai Zhigang and Liu Boming, watching a live broadcast as the Shenzhou-7 capsule landing safely at Siziwang Banner in central Inner Mongolia.
"It was wonderful," said Li Lunchang, a 61-year-old snack vendor who have lived in the city for six years, "I was so excited when one taikonaut floated out of the Shenzhou-7 craft into the space yesterday, waving the national flag at the camera during the spacewalk."
"I feel very proud of the three taikonauts on board the craft, especially because two of the taikonauts came from the Qiqihar city. The whole nation is proud of them," he said.
During the 68-hour flight of the mission, Zhai Zhigang carried out China's first-ever space walk donning a Chinese-made spacesuit.
"I just want to give my son a big hug now," said Liu Zhisheng, father of the 42-year-old taikonaut Liu Boming, who also emerged briefly near the orbit module hatch during the spacewalk to assist Zhai.
Family members and relatives of Liu Boming and Zhai Zhigang were all invited to downtown Qiqihar together to watch the live broadcast of Shenzhou-7's return.
"Son, you are the best!' Liu's father yelled, clapping his hand hard as Liu climbed out of the hatch of the capsule around 5: 40 p.m. Sunday after the landing.
In Harbin, students from the Harbin Institute of Technology launched 16 of their self-made micro rockets Sunday afternoon to celebrate the success of the space mission.
The 40-centimeter mini-rocket, placed to form the shape of the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft on the ground, "blasted" off around 3 p.m. Sunday.
"We chose to launch the mini-rocket today to express our joy and good wishes toward our country's space program," one of the students named He Mingjie told Xinhua.
"The success of Shenzhou-7 mission has made us even more enthusiastic about the space programs. I hope someday I can join the program, too," he said.
Zhang Tao, a technician with the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the Shenzhou-7 mission's success marks China's space program has "entered a new stage."
Zhang was in charge of developing the illumination lamp on the exterior of the Shenzhou-7 vessel.
"The mission shows how advanced our country's space technology is. Our technologies survived the challenge in the space. I feel proud for being part of the Shenzhou-7 mission," he said.
"The success of the Shenzhou-7 mission will not only spur public interest in space science, but will also to a great extent boost the national pride over what the nation has accomplished over the past decades," he said.
China's online forums are packed with warm remarks left by Chinese netizens, many of whom watched the landing of the Shenzhou-7 vessel through live video broadcast at major portals.
"The success of the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shenzhou-7 mission makes all Chinese proud of themselves and their motherland despite a series of hardships the country experienced since the beginning of this year," a netizen wrote at the Xinhuanet.com, where over 20,000 netizens expressed their pride over the feat.
"Even though China's space technology is still not as strong as the United States and Russia, our future is bright. Just look at how many young people are interested in the space technology," another netizen wrote.
(Writing by Wang Cong, Reporting by Gao Guangzhi in Harbin, Li Jianglu in Beijing, Liang Dong in Qiqihar, and Yang Jinzhi in Shanghai)