The Associated PressApril 16, 2022 10:12:59 IST
Beijing: Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday after spending six months in their country’s new orbital station on the longest crew mission to date for China’s ambitious space program.
The Shenzhou 13 space capsule landed in the Gobi Desert in northern Inner Mongolia, shown live on state TV.
During the mission, astronaut Wang Yaping made the first spacewalk by a Chinese woman. Wang and Krumet brought back physics lessons for Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu High School students.
China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and landed a robot rover on the moon in 2013 and on Mars last year. Officials have discussed a possible crew mission to the moon.
On Saturday, state TV showed images from inside the capsule as it traveled through Africa at a speed of 200 meters per second before entering the atmosphere.
These three were the second crew in Tiangong or the heavenly palace. Its original module, Tianhe, was launched in April 2021. Plans call for completion of construction by adding two more modules this year.
Authorities have not yet announced a date for the launch of the next Tiangong crew.
China has dropped out of the International Space Station because of US discomfort because its space program is run by the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party.
China is the third country, after the former Soviet Union and the United States, to send an astronaut into space on its own.
Following its predecessors launched in 2011 and 2016, Tiangong Hall is China’s third space station.
The government announced in 2020 that China’s first reusable spacecraft had landed after a test flight, but no photos or details of the vehicle were released.
On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping visited the launch site at Wenchang on the southern island of Hainan, from where the Tianhe module was launched into orbit.
“Continue to follow the boundaries of global space development and the major strategic needs of national space,” Shi told site staff, all in military uniforms.
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