Following a successful manned docking with a prototype space station, China's historic two-week orbital mission ended with a bumpy landing and three grinning astronauts.
Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth Thursday (June 28) after 13 days in space on a historic mission that made their country only the third nation ever to successfully dock a manned spacecraft to another in orbit.
China's Shenzhou 9 space capsule landed at about 10 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. Friday, June 29 Beijing time) in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. To prepare for their journey home, the space crew — which included China's first female astronaut Liu Yang — separated the Shenzhou 9 capsule its target, the Tiangong 1 prototype space module, on Wednesday (June 27).
Their landing was broadcast live on China's state-run CCTV television network, showing the capsule streaking through the atmosphere like a meteor, deploying its main parachute, then making the final landing and rolling over on its side in a rough touchdown.
"We fulfilled the first manned manual docking," mission commander Jing Haipeng told CCTV reporters after exiting the Shenzhou 9 capsule. His comments in Chinese were translated into English by CCTV. "For the country and people all across the country, thank you for your concerns." [Photos of China's Shenzhou 9 Mission]
Jing and crewmates Liu Yang and Liu Wang appeared to be in good health after their space mission. The trio wore broad smiles and waved to cameras after leaving their spacecraft, but did sit in reclined chairs to help ease their adaptation back to Earth's gravity after nearly two weeks in weightlessness.
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