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Three Chinese astronauts return to Earth after six months in space

Three Chinese astronauts landed in northern China on Saturday after 183 days in space, state broadcaster CCTV said, ending the country’s longest-ever manned space mission.

The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is the latest mission in Beijing’s bid to become a major space power rivaling the United States, after landing a rover on Mars and sending probes to the moon.

The two men and one woman – Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping – landed safely in a small capsule just before 10 a.m. Beijing time after six months aboard the Tianhe core module of China’s Tiangong space station.

“The Shenzhou 13 re-entry capsule has landed successfully,” state broadcaster CCTV said.

Live footage from CCTV showed the capsule landing in a cloud of dust, with ground crew, who had stayed clear of the landing pad, rushing in by helicopter to reach the capsule.

Ground crew applauded as the astronauts took turns reporting they were “feeling good.”

The trio originally launched last October from Shenzhou-13 in northwest China’s Gobi Desert as the second of four manned missions in 2021-2022 dispatched to build the country’s first permanent space station — Tiangong, which means “more heavenly.” palace” means.

Wang became the first Chinese woman to spacewalk last November when she and colleague Zhai spent a six-hour stint installing equipment on the space station.

Mission Commander Zhai, 55, is a former fighter pilot who conducted China’s first spacewalk in 2008, while Ye is a People’s Liberation Army pilot.

The trio have completed two spacewalks during their time in orbit, conducted numerous science experiments, set up equipment and tested technologies for future construction.

Astronauts Ye Guangfu, Wang Yaping and Zhai Zhigang wave at a farewell ceremony ahead of their launch on the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft in October 2021 Astronauts Ye Guangfu, Wang Yaping and Zhai Zhigang wave at a farewell ceremony ahead of their launch on the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft in October 2021 Photo: AFP/STR

Astronauts have spent the past few weeks cleaning up and preparing cabin facilities and equipment for the crew of the incoming Shenzhou-14, which is scheduled to launch in the coming months.

China’s previous record length in space missions was set by last year’s Shenzhou-12 mission, which lasted 92 days.

According to the state broadcaster CCTV, six months is becoming the normal length of stay for astronauts on board the Chinese space station.

The world’s second largest economy has poured billions into its military-run space program with hopes of having a permanently manned space station by 2022 and eventually sending humans to the moon.

The country has come a long way to catch up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have decades of experience in space exploration.

But under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the country’s plans for its heavily touted “space dream” have been kicked into high gear.

In addition to a space station, Beijing is also planning to build a base on the moon, and the country’s National Space Administration said it aims to launch a manned lunar mission by 2029.

China has been banned from the International Space Station since 2011, when the US banned NASA from dealing with it.

While China has no plans to use its space station for ISS-scale global cooperation, Beijing has said it is open to foreign cooperation, although the scope of that cooperation is not yet clear.

The ISS is scheduled to be retired after 2024, although NASA has said it could remain operational until 2030.

https://www.ibtimes.com/three-chinese-astronauts-return-earth-after-six-months-space-3475992?utm_source=Public&utm_medium=Feed&utm_campaign=Distribution Three Chinese astronauts return to Earth after six months in space

Brian Ashcraft

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