Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Mission accomplished as Chinese astronauts return to Earth

By Tim Hume, CNN
updated 4:29 AM EDT, Thu June 27, 2013
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
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 12:10 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has hit its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
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 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 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 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.
ADVERTISEMENT