China shipped the re-entry capsule from its latest manned space mission to Beijing on Tuesday amid celebrations over the country's maiden spacewalk.

The blackened Shenzhou-7 capsule was recovered at its landing site on the Inner Mongolian steppe. It will be reopened and examined at Beijing's space technology research institute, the official China News Service reported Tuesday.

The three-module space craft's orbiter remains in space.

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The return follows Monday's gala welcoming parade given to the mission's three astronauts, who spent 68 hours in orbit during China's most ambitious mission since launching its first manned space flight in 2003.

On Saturday, mission commander Zhai Zhiguo became the first Chinese astronaut to complete a spacewalk, putting the country closer to building a space station and possibly landing a man on the moon.

The United States is the only country to have accomplished that lunar feat, putting its first astronaut team on the moon in 1969. But its last human landing was in 1972, and it has since concentrated on unmanned probes.

China's space program enjoys broad popularity at home and is portrayed by the communist leadership as a symbol of the country's rising technological sophistication and global influence.