Three Chinese astronauts return to Earth

Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth as heroes on Friday after carrying out China's most complex and longest mission in orbit, vital steps in the country's effort to build a space station by 2020.

The 13-day voyage also saw China send a woman into space for the first time, and the nation's leaders celebrated as soon as the crew members emerged from their cramped return capsule smiling and seemingly in good health.

"This is... another outstanding contribution by the Chinese nation to human exploration and the use of outer space," Premier Wen Jiabao said, reading a statement representing all the top leaders.

"It has profound significance in enhancing China's comprehensive power and inspiring the national spirit."

The charred return capsule of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which means Divine Vessel in Chinese, hit the ground in a remote area of northern China and rolled over on Friday morning after an approach slowed by a large parachute.

With the events broadcast across the nation on state-run television, the crew members spent another hour inside the capsule while medical workers checked on their conditions.

As the three were finally pulled out still wearing their white space suits, they waved, smiled and gave thumbs up signals, then made patriotic comments for the television audience.

"We have successfully accomplished the first manned docking mission for China and have now returned to home," said crew leader Jing Haipeng, 45, who has been on three of the country's four manned space missions.

"Thanks to our country, thanks to the care and love from people of all ethnic groups of the country. Thanks."

The history-making female member of the crew, Liu Yang, a 33-year-old air force pilot, was in similarly good spirits, saying she felt "warm and comfortable" throughout the trip.

During their mission the crew successfully carried out China's first manual space docking, an extremely difficult move that is essential in the process of building a space station -- which Beijing aims to do by 2020.

The manoeuvre -- completed by the Americans and Russians in the 1960s -- requires two vessels orbiting Earth at thousands of kilometres (miles) per hour to come together very gently to avoid destroying each other.

It was the main goal of the mission and the team rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times in simulations.

Morris Jones, an Australia-based independent expert on China's programme, said the length of the space flight -- the crew spent most of the 13 days in the Tiangong-1 module -- was more significant than the manual space docking.

"This is China's longest and most complex space flight to date," Jones said.

"The most important thing about the mission is something they haven't said openly and it's the fact that this Tiangong laboratory is more than just a laboratory. It is a proper space station, albeit a very small one."

China has spent 39 billion yuan ($6.1 billion) over the past two decades on its efforts to build a permanent manned space station, according to government figures.

The programme kicked off in 1999 with the launch of Shenzhou-1, with no crew on board.

Two years later, Shenzhou-2 lifted off with small animals aboard, and in 2003, China sent its first man into space. Since then, it has completed a space walk in 2008 and an unmanned docking between a module and rocket last year.

China sees its space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

French space expert Isabelle Sourbes-Verger agreed the latest successful mission had helped cement China's status in these areas.

"By demonstrating that they master (these procedures), China fully enters the club of big powers in human occupation (of space)," said Sourbes-Verger, from France's National Centre for Scientific Research.

"The political objectives for the space programme -- to be able to demonstrate indisputable technological and scientific competence -- have been reached."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • National Geographic 'Afghan girl' in Pakistan papers probe
    National Geographic 'Afghan girl' in Pakistan papers probe

    Pakistani officials are investigating after the famous green-eyed "Afghan girl" immortalised in a 1985 National Geographic magazine cover was found living in the country on fraudulent identity papers. The haunting image of the then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, taken in a refugee camp by photographer Steve McCurry, became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history. Now Pakistani officials say that Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in the northwestern city of Peshawar in April …

  • NYC, Orthodox Jews reach deal on circumcision suction ritual
    NYC, Orthodox Jews reach deal on circumcision suction ritual

    NEW YORK (AP) — The city said Tuesday it has reached a tentative agreement with members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community over a tradition known as oral suction circumcision. …

  • ‘Noy angered by previous SAF failures to get Marwan’
    ‘Noy angered by previous SAF failures to get Marwan’

    Supt. Raymund Train, who led the SAF team that killed Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, recounted in a sworn statement the meeting he and senior SAF officers had with Aquino in Malacañang on Nov. 30. Train said among the senior officers who attended the meeting were then PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas, SAF deputy commander Chief Supt. Noli Taliño and intelligence group chief Senior Supt. Fernando Mendez. …

  • Duterte: Disband all armed groups
    Duterte: Disband all armed groups

    All armed groups, including those of the communists and Muslim secessionist groups, should be disbanded for the country to achieve stability, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday. Duterte said even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Moro National Liberation Front and the New People’s Army should be asked to lay down their arms once these groups agree to join him in what he described as a unity government if he becomes President in 2016. Duterte said under the federal government that he is …

  • Vatican seeks to quell Mexican anger over pope's drug remark
    Vatican seeks to quell Mexican anger over pope's drug remark

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican sought Wednesday to defuse a diplomatic tiff with Mexico after Pope Francis referred to the possible "Mexicanization" of his native Argentina from drug trafficking, the latest instance of Francis' casual speaking style getting him into trouble. …

  • School can’t sack unwed mom – SC
    School can’t sack unwed mom – SC

    The dismissal of an employee of a Catholic school on the grounds of premarital sexual relations and pregnancy out of wedlock was illegal, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled. In a 23-page decision promulgated on Feb. 17, the third division of the high court struck down the decision of St. Scholastica’s College-Westgrove (SSCW) in Silang, Cavite to dismiss Cheryll Santos Leus for “disgraceful or immoral conduct” in violation of the school’s 1992 Manual of Regulations for Private Schools (MRPS). …

  • Who's your daddy? Hippo ancestry unveiled
    Who's your daddy? Hippo ancestry unveiled

    A great-great grandfather of the hippopotamus likely swam from Asia to Africa some 35 million years ago, long before the arrival of the lion, rhino, zebra and giraffe, researchers said Tuesday. "The origins of the hippopotamus have been a mystery until now," Fabrice Lihoreau, a palaeontologist at France's University of Montpellier and co-author of the study, told AFP. …

  • BOC destroys P50-M smuggled shoes
    BOC destroys P50-M smuggled shoes

    The Bureau of Customs (BOC) destroyed yesterday some P50 million worth of fake footwear products earlier seized in an anti-smuggling drive. The knockoffs of popular brands such as Nike, Adidas, Converse, Skechers, Northface, Leaveland, Merelle, Lacoste, Vans, Havaianas and Ipanema were confiscated from Warehouse 4 in Olivarez Compound, Parañaque City. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options