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Astronaut heroes are homeward bound

[ 2012-06-29 11:01] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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The astronauts bid their farewells on Thursday to the Tiangong-1 space lab module, their home for 10 days, and prepared to return home on Friday.

They completed a manual undocking with Tiangong-1 on Thursday morning.

The Shenzhou IX re-entry capsule is scheduled to return to Earth around 10 am on Friday, Wu Ping, spokeswoman for the manned space program, said on Thursday.

The capsule, carrying astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first female astronaut Liu Yang, will land in the central part of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Yang Zhijie, deputy director of the Inner Mongolia Weather Bureau, said it is the first time that a manned spacecraft will land in the region during the summer. Three earlier manned space missions all returned in the autumn.

"The landing area has unpredictable weather in June and thunderstorms, gales and hailstones are not uncommon," he said.

Fortunately, according to the weather forecast, conditions at the landing site will be suitable on Friday.

The National Center for Space Weather also forecast that solar activity this week will not affect communications between the vessel and Earth.

The launch took place on June 16 and successful dockings, both automatic and manual, were achieved.

"The docking is a technological milestone, and represents a significant advance in capability," said David Mindell, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. "It is a difficult task, and also a huge stepping stone toward future advances."

Eileen Collins, a retired NASA astronaut, said that she hoped the crew enjoyed their time in space. "It's a very wonderful, human experience," she said. "And as a former pilot, I feel a kinship with Liu Yang. I hope that someday we might meet."

Pamela Melory, also a retired NASA astronaut, acknowledged the significance of the docking.

"It is an impressive achievement, and a very difficult thing to do," she said. "From those of us who are passionate about space, we wish them congratulations on their accomplishment. However, I will say that it's not over until it's over. We'll be watching carefully, and hoping for their safety and success in returning to Earth."

Since starting its manned space mission in 1992, China has spent nearly 39 billion yuan ($6.13 billion) on the program, according to spokeswoman Wu.

Previously, the government announced ambitious plans for space travel, including building more powerful carrier rockets and space freighters, and the eventual construction of a space station.

The US and the former Soviet Union led the world in pioneering space travel. The US carried out a space docking in 1966. China is now the third country to successfully demonstrate its technical capability and knowledge for human space travel.

The slow and methodical pace at which China has developed its program is commendable, said John Logsdon, the former director of space policy at George Washington University, and current member of the NASA Advisory Council.

"China has gone about it step by step, with each mission demonstrating new capabilities," he said. "That's a path to long-term, stable and sustainable development. That's probably smarter than what we did, when we rushed to the moon just to get there."

The US still spends $17.7 billion annually on space, Logsdon said.


1. When are Chinese astronauts expected to return to Earth?

2. How long were they in outer space?

3. Where will they land?


1. Friday morning.

2. 10 days.

3. In the central part of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Astronaut heroes are homeward bound

About the broadcaster:

Astronaut heroes are homeward bound

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.