8 / 26
China's first female astronaut Liu Yang salutes during a sending off ceremony as she departs for the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft rocket launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, China, Saturday, June 16, 2012. China will send its first woman and two other astronauts into space Saturday to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming only the third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Chinese astronauts return to Earth

China's first female astronaut

and two other crew members emerged smiling from a capsule that returned

safely to Earth on June 29 from a 13-day mission to an orbiting module

that is a prototype for a future space station.