After a 90-day stay at China’s first space station, a trio of Chinese astronauts returned home to Earth Friday. It was their longest mission yet.
After having unboarded from the space station on Thursday morning, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming landed in Shenzhou-12 shortly after 1:30 PM (0530 GMT).
CCTV, the state broadcaster, showed footage of the spacecraft parachute to land in the Gobi desert where it was met with helicopters and other off-road vehicles. A crew of technicians opened the hatch of the capsule minutes later. It appeared unharmed.
They emerged 30 minutes later, and the astronauts were seated in recliner chairs outside of the capsule. This was to give them time to adjust to Earth’s gravity after three months living in a weightless environment. They were scheduled to fly to Beijing on Friday.
Nie, the mission commander, stated to CCTV that China’s increasing strength and rising technology level means there will be more astronauts who set new records.
The three astronauts launched on June 17th, went on two spacewalks and deployed a 10-meter (33 foot) mechanical arm. They also had a video chat with Xi Jinping, the leader of the Communist Party.
Although China’s military has not made any details public, the country’s space program runs a 90-day mission to bring astronaut trios to the station. This will make the station fully functional over the next two year.
The names of the next astronauts have not been announced by the government, nor has the launch date for Shenzhou-13.
Since 2003, China has sent 14 astronauts to space. It is now the third country after the United States and Soviet Union to do so.
China’s space program has progressed at a steady pace. It has avoided many of the problems that plagued the U.S.-Russian programs during the early days of spaceflight.
This has made the country a source for immense national pride. It also compliments the country’s rise in economic, military, 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 in the 1990s, China began its own space station program. This was largely due to U.S. objections regarding the Chinese space program’s secretive nature and military backing.
China has also continued uncrewed missions. China placed a rover onto the far side of Moon, and in December the Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rock to Earth for first time since 1970s.
China also launched its Tianwen-1 space probe to Mars this year, along with its Zhurong rover.
Another program involves collecting samples from an asteroids, an area where Japan’s rival space program is making progress.
China plans to send another mission to return lunar samples in 2024. 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 reportedly in development.