World Bulletin / News Desk
China's Shenzhou 9 spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday, ending a mission that put the country's first woman in space and completed a manned docking test critical to its goal of building a space station by 2020.
The spacecraft re-entered Earth's atmosphere and touched down shortly after 10 a.m. in China's northwestern Inner Mongolia, with its three-person crew, including female astronaut Liu Yang.
Beijing has hailed the nearly two-week mission as a technical breakthrough for the country's growing space programme. The launch and docking exercises with the experimental Tiangong 1 space lab module were carried live on state television.
China is far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the United States and Russia, but the Shenzhou 9 marked China's fourth manned space mission since 2003, and comes as budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back U.S. manned space launches.
The United States will not test a new rocket to take people into space until 2017, and Russia has said manned missions are no longer a priority.
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English, Chinese versions removed following government request
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of York, England, corroborated the results of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) research paper in 2015.
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