China's main Communist Party newspaper declared the country's latest space mission a "great milestone" as state media lavished jubilant coverage Tuesday on the return of the Shenzhou 6 space capsule and declared its two astronauts national heroes.
"WE'RE BACK!" blared a headline in the China Daily newspaper above a full-page color photo of astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng and their Shenzhou 6 capsule moments after their landing Monday.
The five-day flight, China's second manned space mission, was an effort by the ruling party to declare the nation's status as a rising power and rouse public support for communist rule.
A photo of technicians climbing on the kettle-shaped capsule and silhouetted by the red glow of a sunrise was featured on the cover of the Beijing Morning Post and numerous other papers.
"The whole nation is again in great rejoicing," declared the party newspaper People's Daily in an editorial titled "Great Milestone in Scientific Exploration."
"This magnificent feat has once again shown to the world's people that the Chinese people have the aspiration, confidence and capability to keep scaling scientific and technological heights," the newspaper said.
The capsule's pre-dawn landing on the country's northern grasslands was shown live on television as part of a propaganda effort that gave ordinary Chinese an unprecedented view into the secretive, military-linked space program.
The Beijing Youth Daily featured a picture of mission commander Fei Junlong, who a week ago was unknown to the public, embracing his wife and smiling at a Beijing airport after being flown back from the landing site in the Inner Mongolia region, reports the AP. I.L.