Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday after 183 days in space, ending China’s longest crew mission as it continues its quest to become a major space superpower.
The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was the latest mission in Beijing’s campaign to compete with the United States, after landing a rover on Mars and sending explorers to the Moon.
Live footage from the state CCTV broadcaster showed the capsule landing in a cloud of dust, with ground crew staying clear of the landing site chasing in helicopters to reach the capsule.
The two men and one woman – Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping – returned to Earth shortly before 10 am Beijing (0200 GMT), after six months aboard the Tianhe core module of China’s Tiangong space station.
The ground crew was commended as the astronauts took turns to indicate that they were in good physical condition.
Zhai was the first person to emerge from the capsule about 45 minutes after landing, shouting and laughing at cameras while being lifted by a ground crew into a specially designed chair before curled into a blanket.
“I am proud of our heroic country,” Zhai said in an interview with TCI shortly after leaving the capsule. “I feel really good.”
The trio was first launched in the Shenzhou-13 from the Gobi Desert of northwestern China last October, as the second of four crew missions during 2021-2022 launched to put together the country’s first permanent space station – Tiangong, meaning “Heavenly Palace.”
Wang was the first Chinese woman on a space walk last November, when she and her colleague Zhai installed space station equipment during a six – hour period.
Mission commander Zhai, 55, is a former fighter pilot who made the first spaceflight in China in 2008, and is a pilot of the People’s Liberation Army Ye.
All three have completed two space walks, carried out numerous scientific experiments, set up equipment and tested technologies for future construction during their time in orbit.
The astronauts have spent the past few weeks cleaning up and preparing the cabin facilities and equipment for the incoming Shenzhou-14 crew, which is expected to be launched in the coming months.
Last year’s deployment of Shenzhou – 12, which lasted 92 days, set China ‘s previous record spaceflight mission.
According to the state broadcaster CCTV, six months will be the normal residence of an astronaut aboard a Chinese space station.
The world’s second largest economy has poured billions into its military space program, hoping to have a permanently manned space station by 2022 and eventually send people to the Moon.
The country has come a long way to catch up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have years of experience in space exploration.
But under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the country’s plans for its much-advanced “space dream” have been put under too much pressure.
Apart from a space station, Beijing plans to build a base on the Moon, and the country’s National Space Administration has stated that it aims to launch a manned lunar mission by 2029.
While China does not intend to use its space station for ISS-scale global cooperation, Beijing has said it is open to foreign cooperation although the scope of such cooperation is not yet clear.
The ISS is due to retire after 2024, although NASA has said it could remain operational until 2030.
Three Chinese astronauts return to Earth after six months in space Source link Three Chinese astronauts return to Earth after six months in space