Three Chinese astronauts, the second group to be deployed into orbit for the building of the space station, returned to Earth on Saturday following a historic six-month mission, the longest in China’s space programme.
On Saturday morning, the Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft’s return capsule, carrying astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu, landed at the Dongfeng landing site in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The trip back took nine hours.
According to state news agency, all three astronauts are in good physical condition.
The world’s second-largest economy has poured billions into its military-run space programme, catching up to the United States and Russia in space achievements.
On Saturday morning, Chinese state media published photographs of the three astronauts laughing and waving as they were carried out of the return capsule at the landing site.
Zhai, Wang, China’s first female astronaut, and Ye spent 183 days living and working in the space station complex under construction, the longest stay in orbit by Chinese astronauts on a single trip.
On October 16, 2021, they were launched into space onboard the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft and docked with the Tianhe space station core module.
“Over the previous few months, they have completed a number of tasks, including two extravehicular activities, two live science lectures, and a number of sci-tech experiments and application projects,” according to the report.
They also tested and verified critical technologies for the space station’s construction, such as in-orbit spacecraft transposition and robotic arm operation of heavy cargoes.
Wang was quoted as stating following her return, “I want to tell my daughter, mom returned after aiming for the heavens.”
The crew participated in two spacewalks.
Wang became the first Chinese astronaut to do a spacewalk on November 7, 2021.
Since its first manned flight in 2003, China has launched seven crewed missions.
This year, there will be more than 40 launches.
Two Shenzhou crewed missions, two Tianzhou cargo spacecraft, and two additional modules for the under-construction space station are among the launches planned for this year, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
In-orbit rendezvous and docking, extravehicular activities, and spacecraft return are among the other missions related to the space station, according to the CASC, which also said that the Long March-6A carrier rocket will make its first launch in 2022.
China has recently returned rock and soil samples from the moon’s surface to Earth and landed a six-wheeled robot on Mars; it also landed a vehicle on the moon’s far side in 2019.