China astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station
BEIJING – Three Chinese astronauts returned home Friday following a 90-day stay at China’s first space station. This was China’s longest yet.
Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship just after 1: 30 p.m. (0530 GMT) after having undocked from the space station Thursday morning.
State broadcaster CCTV captured the spacecraft parachuting into the Gobi Desert, where it was met with helicopters and other off-road vehicles. A crew of technicians opened the hatch of the capsule and it appeared to be unharmed.
The three astronauts arrived 30 a few minutes later. They were then seated in reclining chairs outside the capsule, to allow time for Earth’s gravity to adjust after three months in a weightless environment. They were scheduled to fly to Beijing on Friday.
” With China’s increasing strength and rising level of Chinese technology I believe there will be even more astronauts who set new records,” Nie, the mission commander, told CCTV.
After launching on June 17, the three astronauts went on two spacewalks, deployed a 10-meter (33-foot) mechanical arm, and had a video call with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
While the military of China has not made any details public, the astronaut trios will be taking 90-day missions over the next two year to bring the station to full functionality.
The government has not announced the names of the next set of astronauts nor the launch date of Shenzhou-13.
China sent 14 spacemen since 2003,, when it was the third country to do so after the United States and the Soviet Union.
China has made progress in spaceflight at a steady pace. It has avoided many of those problems that plagued the Russian and U.S. programs during the early days of spaceflight. This has made China’s space program a source for great national pride. It also complements the country’s rise in economic, technological and diplomatic prominence over the past years under the strong rule of the Communist Party, current leader Xi Jinping. After being expelled from the International Space Station due to U.S. objections regarding the Chinese space program’s secrecy, military backing,
China began its own space station program.
China simultaneously pursued uncrewed missions. In December, the Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rock samples to Earth. This was in spite of being excluded from the International Space Station.
China also landed the Tianwen-1 space probe to Mars with the Zhurong rover, which is exploring the area to search for signs of life.
Another program involves collecting samples from an asteroids, an area where Japan’s space program has made significant progress in recent years.
China plans to send another mission in 2024, to return lunar samples. It is also pursuing a crewed mission to Moon and building a scientific base there. However, no timeline has been set. Another highly secretive space plane is being developed.