Safe landing for China’s latest space mission crew
China’s first female astronaut and two other crew members returned safely to Earth yesterday, following a 13-day mission to an orbiting module that is a prototype for a future space station.
The Shenzhou 9 parachuted down to land on grassland in the sprawling Inner Mongolia region in the early hours of yesterday morning. China declared the first manned mission to the Tiangong 1 module a major step forward for the country’s ambitious space programme.
Veteran astronaut and mission commander, Jing Haipeng, 45, emerged first from the capsule, followed by crew mates Liu Wang, 43, and Liu Yang, 33, China’s first female astronaut.
The three, all experienced air force pilots, were lifted on to folding chairs and appeared in good health.
“Tiangong 1, our home in space, was comfortable and pleasant. We’re very proud of our nation,” Liu Yang told national broadcaster CCTV.
Space programme commander, General Chang Wanchuan, said the astronauts were in good health and declared the mission “completely successful”.
Premier Wen Jiabao said the mission marked “absolutely important progress” for the space programme.
The mission had included both remote control and piloted dockings with the module and extensive medical monitoring of the astronauts as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station.
China’s next goals include another manned mission to the module, originally scheduled for later this year but which may be delayed depending on an evaluation of the Shenzhou 9 mission and the condition of Tiangong 1.
China has been extremely cautious in its manned missions, with more than three years passing since the previous one, and all four have been relatively problem-free.
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