Shenzhou VIII returns
Updated: 2011-11-18 07:56
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
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 11/18/2011 page1)