English: China astronaut Jing Haipeng. Taken a...

English: China astronaut Jing Haipeng. Taken at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 6th Dec 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Images of the capsule landing in Inner Mongolia at 10:05 local time (02:05 GMT) were shown live on television. The astronauts, including China‘s first woman in space, carried out a successful manual docking with the Tiangong-1 laboratory module. The mission is a key step towards China’s goal of building a space station by 2020.

Jing Haipeng, commander of the Shenzhou-9 crew, was the first to emerge from the return capsule, followed by his flight engineers Liu Wang and the country’s first woman astronaut, Liu Yang. The Shenzhou-9 mission posted a series of firsts: the first manned automatic and manual dockings; the first long-duration spaceflight; and the first crew to live aboard a permanently orbiting module, Tiangong-1.

Beijing has long talked about its three-step strategy.

The first step was the development of the Shenzhou capsule system itself, the second involved the technologies needed for spacewalking and docking, and the third is China’s own space station. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft was launched on 16 June.

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