Shenzhou VIII returns

Updated: 2011-11-18 07:56

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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 Shenzhou VIII returns

Specialists check the Shenzhou VIII spacecraft, which landed in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Thursday after completing 17 days in space. Li Gang / Xinhua

The unmanned Shenzhou VIII spacecraft returned to Earth on Thursday, marking the successful conclusion of China's first docking mission.

The spacecraft touched down at 7:32 pm at a landing site in Siziwang Banner (county) in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

During its 17-day journey in space, the vehicle docked, disengaged and re-docked with the unmanned Tiangong-1 space lab module about 340 km above Earth.

The two dockings helped China master rendezvous and docking, important procedures for China's long-term plan of building a space station by 2020, experts said.

Next year, two more spacecraft, at least one manned, will be launched to dock with the Tiangong-1 space module to better hone the technology.

Five helicopters, fitted out with receivers to detect signals from the craft, located the vehicle. After reaching the craft, specialists conducted a series of inspections.

Incubators inside the craft were also taken out and sent to Beijing, as they contain biological experiments jointly conducted by Chinese and German scientists.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/18/2011 page1)