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After 68 hours in orbit and a space walk, the Chinese astronauts have returned safely, and the mission can be considered a rotund success.

Spacewalker Zhai Zhigang was the first to emerge and was helped to a nearby folding chair, where he was greeted with flowers and applause and said he was “proud of his motherland.”

You can view Zhigang’s historic space walk here.

2008 has been a year of lights and shadows for China. Good things have happened to them (The Olympic games and this), along with very bad things (toxic-milk scandals, lead-in-toy scandals, floods, earthquakes and the collapse of schools constructed with inadequate materials, political controversy over Tibet, etc). While I’m not one who shies away from criticizing the bad, I nevertheless congratulate the Chinese for this succesful mission, and wish them the best on future endeavours related to the peaceful exploration of space… as long as it stays peaceful.