While Chinese people sat with bated breath hoping for the safe return of the nation's first man in space, Lieutenant-Colonel Yang Liwei was thinking he did not want to go home. At least, not so soon. Recalling how he had gaped in awe at the North Pole as he swung around Earth for the 14th and last time, Colonel Yang said: 'Of course I wish it had lasted a bit longer.' Speaking to state media after his triumphant return home, he said he had been bowled over by the stunning vistas. 'The view of the Earth was magnificent,' the 38-year-old said in a rare display of emotion. But after liftoff, he said he had to struggle through a difficult hour before he could appreciate his surroundings. When weightlessness took effect, blood rushed to his torso, he explained. 'I felt my body was upside down for that early phase.' But his rigorous training taught him how to deal with this feeling and after about an hour he was feeling great, he said. Once he had settled down, did he start enjoying the fact that he was making history? 'No, I was thinking about the mission procedures,' he said, stressing that attention to detail was essential on a space mission. Even with his eyes closed, he could remember the positions of all meters and switches inside the spacecraft. 'I can describe the colour, position and role of any part of the capsule you name,' he said. Part of his duty was to keep a detailed log of his experience for the benefit of future astronauts. He said his first entry read: 'For the peace and progress of all mankind, the Chinese have come to outer space.' Privacy was not high on the agenda. He ate his three meals under the ever-watchful eye of hundreds of experts and state leaders back at mission control. During his meticulously scripted 21-hour odyssey, food was about the only area where Colonel Yang had any kind of choice, as he was allowed to pick from a range of preprepared meals. But everything else, including when to snooze, was dictated to him, he said. 'I tried to go asleep according to the schedule,' he said, 'but I did not feel very tired then and it was difficult to fall asleep.' The only surprise during the entire mission was when he heard the voices of his wife and eight-year-old son coming over the communication system. 'That was exciting,' he said. 'I found that short conversation very meaningful; it made me feel very warm.' The re-entry was quite a difficult time, he said, because the sudden return to gravity made it very difficult to breathe for a while. 'But it was no more difficult than anything I had experienced in training over the past five years.' The stoic colonel said even the sudden impact of his landing did not shake his 'excellent mood'. Now back on terra firma, Colonel Yang is well on his way to reaching legendary status with state media lauding his talents.