The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft has successfully completed manual docking with orbiting space laboratory Tiangong-1, marking China's first docking mission with a manned spacecraft and setting the nation on course to build a space station by 2020.
The spacecraft, carrying three astronauts including China's first female astronaut, was launched into orbit on 16 June 2012 aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
During the 13-day Shenzhou (divine vessel) mission, both spacecrafts initially came together in an automatic docking, which was followed by entry of onboard astronauts into the experimental Tiangong-1 space laboratory to continue research on manned space mission.
Manual docking is a space manoeuvre that involves connecting two orbiters that are travelling at a speed of 7.8km a second in space together with an astronaut.
China's manned space programme designer-in-chief Zhou Jianping was quoted by Xinhua as saying: "The automated docking and manual docking are both essential and they serve as a backup for each other."
China's mission was aimed at testing its ability to dock manually, which could prove useful when faced with problems during automatic procedure, such as the malfunctioning of the control centre used to carry it out from Earth.
Shenzhou 9 and Tiangong 1 will stay connected for four more days, while the spacecraft is scheduled to return back to earth on 29 June.
China is planning to invest nearly CNY19bn ($3bn) in Shenzhou seven to ten missions.