June 26, 2013
Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Wednesday, touching down in north China’s Inner Mongolia after a successful 15-day mission in which they docked with an experimental manned space laboratory.
The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft, China’s fifth manned space mission since 2003, completed the final trial docking with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1, critical in Beijing’s quest to build a working space station by 2020.
China Central Television showed the re-entry of the capsule, dangling from an orange parachute, and its landing on flat grasslands shortly after 8 a.m. China time.
China successfully carried out its first manned docking exercise with Tiangong 1 last June, a milestone in an effort to acquire the technological and logistical skills to run a full space station that can house people for long periods.
The Shenzhou 10 was commanded by Nie Haisheng, with Zhang Xiaoguang and female astronaut Wang Yaping also on board.
The astronauts began emerging about 90 minutes after landing, helped out of the nose of the capsule by workers in white jumpsuits and into waiting chairs, smiling and waving to the TV camera.
“It’s good to be home,” Nie told CCTV. “Space is our dream. The motherland is always our home.”
Wang gave a 50-minute televised physics lecture last week on the effects of weightlessness, widely viewed by middle school students around the country.
“This mission made me realise two dreams: my dream of flying to outer space, and my dream of being a teacher,” she told CCTV. “If you have a dream, you can succeed.”