Skip to main content

Chinese space capsule returns to Earth after ambitious mission

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
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
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
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.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT