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Chinese astronauts to return in days: spokeswoman

(Xinhua)

09:19, June 25, 2012

BEIJING, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese astronauts will return to Earth in several days after completing the major tasks, and measures have been taken to ensure a safe return, a spokeswoman of China's manned space program said here Sunday.

"Just like everyone else, I am eagerly expecting their safe and early return," said Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program, told a press conference.

They will stay in the Tiangong-1 lab module for another three to four days, and will then manually maneuver the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to part from the Tiangong-1 space lab module and end their space journey within one day, according to Wu.

The three Chinese astronauts, including China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, have almost completed the major tasks of the space mission, she said. They were sent into space aboard Shenzhou-9 on June 16 from a launch center in northwest China's Gobi desert.

But she noted that there could be new situations and problems and promised to give real-time report of the implementation of the tasks.

Measures have been prepared to ensure the safety of the astronauts, who will get back to Earth in a return capsule, she said, adding that the returning technology has been "very mature".

Backups of the key devices aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft have been prepared, and engineers have conducted strict quality control and double-checks on the reentry system, said Wu.

The ground search, rescue and medical personnel have repeatedly exercised for the return, who will use helicopters to find and transfer the three astronauts to safe places as soon as possible, she said.

At the same time, digital pictures will be sent to the ground control center in Beijing to report the rescue progress in a real-time manner, she added.

Three Chinese astronauts Sunday successfully completed a manual docking between Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module Sunday noon, the first such attempt in China's history of space exploration.

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