Skip to main content

Chinese space capsule returns to Earth after ambitious mission

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 29, 2012 -- Updated 0453 GMT (1253 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The three-person crew emerges from the spacecraft
  • China's Shenzhou-9 capsule bumps down in Inner Mongolia
  • This mission marks China's first woman in space
  • China joins U.S. and Russia in completing a manned space docking

(CNN) -- China's Shenzhou-9 spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday, completing an ambitious mission that notched up a series of breakthroughs for the country, including putting its first woman in orbit.

Shenzhou-9 successfully carried out a manned space docking last week, making China the third country to complete such a feat after the United States and Russia.

Hanging from a parachute, the capsule floated back down to Earth on Friday, bumping down on the arid terrain of Inner Mongolia and rolling onto its side.

Support teams raced on foot and in vehicles to where the capsule lay to coordinate the three-person crew's exit from the spacecraft.

After an hour of preparation work in and around the capsule, the crew members emerged one by one, smiling and waving. They were helped into chairs, as their bodies were still adapting to the earth's gravity after nearly two weeks of weightlessness.

Jing Haipeng came out first to applause from the ground staff. He was followed by Liu Wang. There was then a pause before the female crew member, Liu Yang, made her way out.

The three sat in a row in front of the capsule as Chinese flags rippled in the wind behind them. Still fully dressed in their spacesuits, they joined hands and were each handed a bouquet of flowers.

What does space mission mean for China?

China has made rapid, steady strides in developing its space program over the past decade, such as sending its first astronaut into space, completing its first spacewalk and launching two lunar orbiters. It has big aspirations for the program and hopes to build a space station and conduct a manned mission to the moon.

Chinese space capsule returns to Earth

Shenzhou-9 docked with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space laboratory last week. Tiangong-1, a prototype for a full-fledged space station, was launched into space in September.

China's Shenzhou-9 crew returns to Earth

The crew of Shenzhou-9 followed that feat by executing a manual docking with Tiangong-1 on Sunday.

Mastering the technique of joining spacecraft together manually is considered an crucial step toward China's goal of building a space station in 2020.

Previously, the docking had been done by remote control from the ground.

The endeavors have been a source of pride for China and coincided with the record-setting descent of a Chinese manned submersible vehicle 7,020 meters into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

They could help bolster support for the Chinese Communist Party as it undergoes a once-in-a-decade leadership transition later this year and deal with the fallout from the dramatic downfall of Bo Xilai, one of the country's most prominent politicians.

CNN's Jethro Mullen and Judy Kwon contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT