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Discovery takes a giant leap forward
(China Daily) Updated:2005-08-10 09:37

  It was a day to come home.

  It was a day to celebrate.

  US space shuttle Discovery came back to Earth safely yesterday after NASA postponed re-entry on Monday.

  Congratulations to the seven astronauts for their successful, breathtaking 14-day flight!

  Discovery's flight is expected to rebuild confidence in space exploration after the disaster of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

  The hugs and handshakes Discovery's crew exchanged with their two hosts on the international space station to bid farewell were a touching picture. So are the hugs and handshakes greeting their homecoming.

  Discovery's long journey is a test of nerves for people around the world, the family members and relatives of the seven astronauts in particular.

  It is also a test of humans' expertise and capability to explore space.

  The safe homecoming is the perfect end to the mission. It is an incredible step forward in space exploration, a scientific and psychological recovery for humankind.

  The Discovery's mission was to deliver much-needed supplies to the international space station, repair a broken gyroscope on the station, and test techniques for repairing the shuttle in flight to prevent the type of disaster that struck Columbia.

  Columbia was just 16 minutes from landing after 15 days in orbit when it suddenly broke apart 40 miles above central Texas. All seven astronauts were killed, raising the total number of astronauts killed to 14 from just two shuttle disasters in 113 flights since 1981.

  For the first time, the Discovery astronauts performed an unprecedented repair job on the shuttle's underside during a daring space walk.

  The road to space is long and dangerous. The risks, however, have never scared away humans' curiosity and determination to know more about space.

  It is in the nature and character of humanity to explore beyond the reaches of our world. Each space launch is a boost for human pride and an inspiration for future exploration. Each astronaut has our respect.

  The shuttle flight, however, is not purely the outcome of our idle curiosity for going into space. It has brought back tangible rewards. We are touched by the legacy of space flight.

  The shuttles have flown to the international space station, carrying staff, food and general supplies.

  The project unites 16 nations in the pursuit of knowledge that already has and will continue to advance technology and medical science on Earth.

  Without successful shuttle flights, the international space station would have become a huge and most costly piece of garbage.

  Many scientific achievements in outer space were possible because scientists from different countries worked together. A permanent human presence in space has been made a reality as nations pool their expertise and resources.

  The exploration of space has already revolutionized life on our planet in many ways.

  Today, one can talk to people on the other side of the planet, thanks to satellite communications. One can get information on the weather in any part of the world, thanks to Earth observation satellites. Some of us no longer have to worry about getting lost on the roads, thanks to satellite navigation.

  Observations from outer space have enhanced our understanding of our common environment, for example, by providing images of the ozone layer and world climate conditions. Space technology has led to advances in fields ranging from the monitoring of natural disasters to the development of navigational systems.

  Space science and technology have great potential for enriching the lives of people around the world.

  These examples of the benefits of space technology - some immediately apparent, some much less so - provide a powerful justification for the peaceful exploration of outer space.

  Space exploration should advance the twin objectives of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international co-operation. Co-operation in space should contribute to peace on Earth.

  Space exploration should be made to create a safer, more prosperous and better-connected world.

  Discovery has accomplished a mission that is expected to forge ahead into a bright future for space exploration.

  

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