Chinese astronauts, two men and one woman, have made their way back to Earth inside an extremely cramped and very charred space capsule. The trio touched down on Friday in the northern part of China, their landing softened considerably by the use of a large parachute. Their triumphant return after a 13-day trip into space was broadcast across the country for all to see. The mission, in addition to including the first remale astronaut, is considered to be the longest and most complex mission in the country's history.
"This is another outstanding contribution by the Chinese nation to human exploration and the use of outer space," Premier Wen Jiabao said in a prepared statement. "It has profound significance in enhancing China's comprehensive power and inspiring the national spirit."
After spending nearly an hour inside the capsule as medical professionals evaluated their conditions, the three astronauts finally emerged with giant smiles, waving and giving the thumbs up to the audiences watching their return at home.
"We have successfully accomplished the first manned docking mission for China and have now returned to home," crew leader Jing Haipeng explained. "Thanks to our country, thanks to the care and love from people of all ethnic groups of the country. Thanks."
According to AFP, China has spent nearly 39 billion yuan ($6.1 billion) over the span of two decades in an effort to build a permanent space station. This mission found the crew manually docking with the aforementioned contraption, a maneuver that is considered extremely difficult and dangerous. According to officials, this particular endeavor has pretty much cemented China's place in the world of space exploration.
"By demonstrating that they master (these procedures), China fully enters the club of big powers in human occupation (of space)," Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, an expect with France's National Centre for Scientific Research, explained.
Image provided courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor