THREE Chinese astronauts landed in the north of the country on Saturday (16/4) after 183 days in space. According to broadcaster CCTV, they ended the longest manned space mission in Bamboo Curtain Country to date.
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. Two men and one woman — Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping — landed safely in the small capsule just before 10:00 Beijing time, after six months of boarding the Tianhe core module from China’s Tiangong space station.
“The Shenzhou 13 re-entry capsule successfully landed,” broadcaster CCTV said. Live footage from CCTV shows the capsule landing. Ground crew by helicopter reaches the capsule. The ground crew applauded as the astronauts each took turns reporting that they were feeling good.
All three were launched in Shenzhou-13 from the Gobi Desert in northwest China last October. This is the second of a crew of four from 2021-2022 sent to assemble the country’s first permanent space station, Tiangong, which means heavenly palace.
Wang became the first Chinese woman to go on a spacewalk last November when she and her partner Zhai installed the space station’s equipment for six hours. Mission commander Zhai, 55, is a former fighter pilot who made China’s first spacewalk in 2008. Ye is a People’s Liberation Army pilot.
The trio have completed two space trips, conducted various scientific experiments, prepared equipment, and tested technology for future construction while they were in orbit. The astronauts have spent the last few weeks tidying up and preparing the cabin facilities and equipment for the upcoming Shenzhou-14 crew, sometime in the coming months.
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The previous long record for China’s space missions was set by last year’s Shenzhou-12 mission which lasted 92 days. Six months will be a normal astronaut’s stay on the Chinese space station. (AFP/OL-14)