China's Shenzou 9 spacecraft has completed its mission, bringing the first Chinese woman into space. The astronauts completed a crucial docking test meant to pave the way for building a manned Chinese space station.
The capsule with three astronauts on board landed in grasslands in Inner Mongolia in northern China shortly after 10 a.m. local time on Friday. The craft's descent to Earth was slowed with the help of a parachute. The landing was broadcast live on state television.
"We have returned, and we feel good," the official Xinhua news agency reported the astronauts as saying.
The "taikonauts," as Chinese astronauts are called, had apparently also weathered the 13-day mission well, authorities said.
It was the fourth and longest manned Chinese spaceflight, and the first time a female astronaut, Liu Yang, was part of the crew.
The taikonauts had travelled to an orbiting space lab module meant to be a prototype for a future space station and carried out numerous exercises necessary for future missions in China's ambitious space program.
ncy/msh (dapd, AP, Reuters)