China successfully completed its longest human space mission as the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and its crew of two men and one woman returned safely to Earth. The return capsule landed via parachute at 8:07 am local time (0007 UTC) Wednesday, June 26, 2013 on the grasslands of north China’s Inner Mongolia region. The 15-day “Divine Vessel” mission is part of the Chinese space program’s objective of building a permanent space station by 2020.
In the video below, enthusiastic applause comes when the parachute deploys and at other milestones of the return. The crew was quickly greeted and a smiling Nie Haisheng, the commander of the mission, emerged from the capsule first, and was followed by female astronaut Wang Yaping, and crewmember Zhang Xiaoguang.
“At this moment what I most want to say is that space is our dream and our motherland is forever our home,” Nie said. “I wish our motherland to thrive even more and our people to become happier and happier. I thank the entire nation for their concern and support for us.”
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During the mission, the Shenzou spacecraft docked with China’s orbiting space module Tiangong-1 in tests intended to prepare for the building of the space station. The crew also spoke via video to school children in China, showing how different objects behave in zero-G. The crew conducted several experiments and medical tests while in space. The official mission duration was 14 days 14 hours and 29 minutes.
This was China’s fifth manned space mission since 2003. China plans to launch the Tiangong-2 space lab around 2015, according to the official Chinese Xinhua news agency, quoting Wang Zhaoyao, director of China’s manned space program office. He said there are plans to put an experimental core module of a space station in orbit in 2018, with the manned space station itself being built around 2020.
Besides building a space station, China also hopes to send astronauts to the Moon.