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Three Chinese astronauts on Shenzhou-10 spacecraft have returned to Earth in a capsule that has landed safely after a 15-day mission in space.

The astronauts travelled on the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft to China’s space laboratory, the Tiangong-1.

They completed manual docking exercises and astronaut Wang Yaping gave a video lecture to students back on Earth.

The Shenzhou-10 is China’s fifth manned space mission and came 10 years after China first sent an astronaut into space.

Three Chinese astronauts on Shenzhou-10 spacecraft have returned to Earth in a capsule that has landed safely after a 15-day mission in space

Three Chinese astronauts on Shenzhou-10 spacecraft have returned to Earth in a capsule that has landed safely after a 15-day mission in space

State TV showed the capsule touching down in grassland in the Inner Mongolia region at around 08:07 local time.

The mission control centre burst into applause after the crew were reported to be safe and well, reports said.

Mission commander Nie Haisheng was the first to exit the capsule at 09:31, followed by colleagues Wang Yaping and Zhang Xiaoguang.

The astronauts needed time to allow their bodies to adjust to Earth’s gravity before emerging from the space capsule, Chinese media said.

Nie Haisheng, who has been on one previous space mission, has now spent more hours in space than any other Chinese astronaut, having clocked up over 470 hours across his two missions, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Wang Yaping, China’s second woman in space, delivered the country’s first space lecture from the Tiangong-1.

China plans to eventually put a permanently manned space station above the Earth.

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Shenzhou 9 spacecraft carrying three Chinese crew members has returned to Earth following a 13-day mission.

Images of the capsule landing in Inner Mongolia at 10:05 local time (02:05 GMT) were shown live on television.

The astronauts carried out a successful manual docking with the Tiangong-1 laboratory module and performed a series of experiments while in space.

The mission is a key step towards China’s goal of building a space station by 2020.

Shenzhou 9 spacecraft carrying three Chinese crew members has returned to Earth following a 13-day mission

Shenzhou 9 spacecraft carrying three Chinese crew members has returned to Earth following a 13-day mission

Crew member Liu Yang hit the headlines around the world for being the first Chinese woman in space.

The crew of the Shenzhou 9 capsule successfully carried out the country’s manual docking manoeuvre earlier in the week.

The delicate procedure, which involves bringing together two orbiting vessels travelling at thousands of miles an hour, was mastered by the USSR and US space teams in the 1960s.

The crew also carried out automatic docking of the two crafts during their mission.

The three astronauts returned to the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft on Thursday and performed a manual separation from the space laboratory.

They touched down in Inner Mongolia’s Siziwang county, with the capsule deploying a parachute to slow its approach.

All the astronauts were in good health, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft was launched on 16 June.