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China has completed its longest manned space mission, with the return of its Shenzhou 10 spacecraft to Earth. The descent module and its three astronauts touched down after 15 days in space.
The capsule landed, kicking up a cloud of dust, at 8:07 a.m. local time (0007 GMT) in China's remote Inner Mongolia region.
Technicians scrambled quickly to open the hatch before crawling inside to check on the condition of the crew, with the touch down shown live on state television. All three astronauts were seen wriggling out of the landing pod.
Nie was followed out of the capsule by female astronaut Wang Yaping - China's second woman in space - and fellow astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang. All three were said to be in perfect health.
During the mission, Wang had delivered a video science lesson from space to Chinese schoolchildren, showing how various objects behave in zero gravity.
"I hope all our young friends may have beautiful dreams and may their dreams come true," said the astronaut, upon her return.
At the mission command center in Beijing, manned space program director Zhang Youxia said the mission had been a "complete success."
China's latest mission was the second crewed visit to the Tiangong 1 experimental space station, which was launched in 2011. The vessel is scheduled to be replaced by a three-module permanent station, Tiangong 2, in 2020.
China sent its first astronaut into space only in 2003, becoming only the third nation to achieve manned space travel independently.
rc / rg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)