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Shenzhou-13 astronauts return to Earth after being aboard China’s space station for 6 months


Three Chinese astronauts returned safely to Earth on Saturday after spending a record six months aboard China’s new space station, doubling the previous stay of the country’s longest single flight in space. The Shenzhou-13 capsule carrying Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu successfully landed at 9:56 a.m. local time at Dongfeng Landing Site in the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (north of China), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The medical team confirmed that the crew members were in good health, marking the full success of the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceflight mission, the Global Times newspaper reported. The astronauts spent six months on the Tiangong space station and nearly doubled the previous record for China’s longest single spaceflight mission of 92 days set by the Shenzhou-12, he said.

Besides the long-term stay in space, the mission has set many records and firsts in the country’s manned space history, he said. The Shenzhou spacecraft developer, China Academy of Spacecraft Technology (CAST), said in a statement that the Shenzhou-13 mission also explored emergency mission mechanisms for the first time, with the manned Shenzhou- 14 and the Long March-2F Y14 rocket on standby. position just after the launch of the Shenzhou-13 and the Long March-2F Y13.

This enabled potential space rescue of Shenzhou-13 taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) in the event of a malfunction preventing the spacecraft from returning to Earth. Compared to the return trip of the Shenzhou-12 mission which took about 28 hours, the Shenzhou-13 performed a rapid return maneuver which took only eight hours.

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CAST said the orbit plan of Shenzhou-13 has been simplified to five orbits compared to the 18 of the Shenzhou-12 mission, and it was designed to further improve return efficiency, shorten monitoring at ground and make it more comfortable for returning astronauts. The probe used three parachutes to slow from a speed of 200 meters per second to 7 meters per second as it approached Earth. The Shenzhou 13 crew began its mission in October last year and spent six months in orbit.

The crew performed two spacewalks to install the external mechanical arm components, adjust the cameras, and perform tests. In November, Wang became the first Chinese woman to walk in space. Researchers will now launch a comprehensive assessment of key technologies used on the space station before launching the next phase of the Tiangong mission.

An unmanned resupply mission is expected next month before the Shenzhou-14 crew heads to the space station to oversee the docking of two space labs, named Wentian and Mengtian, to complete the station’s setup. T-shaped space by the end of the year. . China’s Manned Space Agency said last month that the crews for the next two missions had been identified and were in training, but their names have not yet been announced.

Apart from the science missions, the crew also gave two science lectures live from the space station, during which they conducted various experiments and answered questions from students watching the class on Earth, CGTN, an international news service English-language Chinese cable company based in Beijing, said.

Thanks to advances in space communication technologies, crew members were able to entertain themselves on the Internet, talk frequently to family and friends, and have regular space-Earth interactions, the Global Times reported.

Pang Zhihao, a senior space expert, told the Global Times on Saturday that it would normally take astronauts returning from space about three months to recover their strength. However, it might take a little longer for the Shenzhou-13 crew because they’ve been in space for such a long time, Pang said.


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