Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Mission accomplished as Chinese astronauts return to Earth

By Tim Hume, CNN
June 27, 2013 -- Updated 0829 GMT (1629 HKT)
Chinese astronauts Zhang Xiaoguang, Nie Haisheng and Wang Yaping (L-R) wave in Inner Mongolia after exiting the return capsule of the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft on Wednesday, June 26. Chinese astronauts Zhang Xiaoguang, Nie Haisheng and Wang Yaping (L-R) wave in Inner Mongolia after exiting the return capsule of the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft on Wednesday, June 26.
HIDE CAPTION
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
Chinese astronauts return to earth
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Three Chinese astronauts return after their country's longest manned space voyage
  • Zhang Xiaoguang: "We are dreamers, and we have now fulfilled our dream"
  • Shenzhou-10 twice docked with the orbiting space station Tiangong-1
  • Part of ambitious multi-billion dollar program to establish manned space station by 2020

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Three Chinese astronauts have returned safely to Earth after completing their country's longest manned space voyage, with their mission hailed by their bosses as a "complete success."

Nie Haisheng, commander of the Shenzhou-10 crew, was the first to emerge from the descent module after it touched down by parachute in an expanse of Inner Mongolian grasslands on Wednesday morning after 15 days in space. He was followed by Wang Yaping, the only female astronaut of the mission, and Zhang Xiaoguang.

"We are dreamers, and we have now fulfilled our dream," Zhang was quoted as saying by the state media China Daily as saying. "Our space dream knows no boundary, and our hard work will never cease."

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, watching a broadcast of the descent from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, congratulated the astronauts on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

READ: Secret base fuels China's space ambitions

Watch Chinese rocket blastoff
Teaching class from a space lab
China unveils new space mission

During its journey, Shenzhou-10, whose name translates as "Divine Vessel," twice docked with the orbiting space station Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace"), once manually and once through an automated operation. The crew spent 12 days aboard the space station, conducting technical tests and medical experiments, while Wang delivered a physics lesson in zero-gravity via video link to more than 60 million Chinese middle school students.

READ: China flexes space muscles with zero gravity lesson

Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011 with a two-year operational lifespan. The Shenzhou-10's mission was the second and final manned voyage to the space station, following China's first manned docking mission a year ago. It represented China's fifth manned mission to space in a decade, and the first during the presidency of Xi Jinping, who took office in March this year.

The mission has been broadly hailed by Chinese leaders and citizens alike as a prestige-building demonstration of China's growing technological expertise, although some netizens have questioned the wisdom of a developing country pursuing an expensive space program.

During a June 24 video call to the Shenzhou-10 crew, Xi told them that "the space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. With the development of space programs, the Chinese people will take bigger strides to explore further in space," he said, according to state media.

The Shenzhou-10 mission -- hailed by Zhang Youxia, commander-in-chief of China's manned space program, as a "complete success" -- is part of Beijing's ambitious multi-billion dollar program to establish a manned space station by 2020.

China only sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, but has made rapid advances in the intervening decade. Despite this, its space program is still yet to achieve capabilities reached by the U.S. and then the Soviet Union decades ago.

China does not expect to put a man on the moon until after 2020, but plans to send a more advanced space lab, Tiangong-2, into orbit in 2015.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 2014 GMT (0414 HKT)
Despite China's inexorable economic rise, the U.S. is still an indispensable ally, especially in Asia. No one knows this more than the Asian giant's leaders, writes Kerry Brown.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
The new U.S. deal with China on greenhouse gases faces enormous challenges in both countries. Jonathan Mann explains.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
For the United States and China to announce a plan reducing carbon emissions by almost a third by the year 2030 is a watershed moment for climate politics on so many fronts.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 2026 GMT (0426 HKT)
China shows off its new stealth fighter jet, but did it steal the design from an American company? Brian Todd reports.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
Airshow China in Zhuhai provides a rare glimpse of China's military and commercial aviation hardware.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
A new exchange initiative aims to bridge relations between the two countries .
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0551 GMT (1351 HKT)
Xi and Abe's brief summit featured all the enthusiasm of two unhappy schoolboys forced to make up after a schoolyard dust-up.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
Maybe you've decided to show your partner love with a new iPhone. But how about 99 of them?
November 3, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Can China's Muslim minority fit in? One school is at the heart of an ambitious experiment to assimilate China's Uyghurs.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is one of thousands of Americans learning Chinese.
November 4, 2014 -- Updated 0500 GMT (1300 HKT)
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says he needs to maintain good economic ties with China while trying to keep Beijing's push for reunification at bay.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 0528 GMT (1328 HKT)
Chinese drone-maker DJI wants to make aerial photography drones mainstream despite concerns about privacy.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 0518 GMT (1318 HKT)
A top retired general confesses to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in war on corruption.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
China sends an unmanned spacecraft to the moon and back but is country following an outdated recipe for superpower status?
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Full marks for ingenuity: Students employ high-tech gadgets worthy of a spy movie to pass national exam.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0526 GMT (1326 HKT)
Confucius Institutes seek to promote Chinese language and culture but some have accused them of "cultural imperialism."
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G wants everyone to know that he's not a foreign agitator trying to defy the Chinese Communist Party.
ADVERTISEMENT