Three Chinese astronauts, also known as taikonauts who have been in China’s unfinished Tiangong space station for the past six months, have safely returned to Earth. This is based on a report according to Space.com. This report also says the Chinese mission to Tiangong which means “heavenly palace” is China’s second crewed mission to space and by far the longest.
The Chinese spacecraft was said to have landed in the Inner Mongolia desert on Saturday morning at 9:56 AM Beijing time (02:00 GMT) after departing about nine hours prior from the space station’s core Tianhe module. The Chinese astronauts were said to have taken off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in October 2021 and have since spent about 183 days at the space station.
Onboard the Chinese spacecraft are Commander Zhai Zhigang, crewmate Ye Guangfu and taikonaut Wang Yaping. The mission which is China’s longest had taikonaut Wang Yaping made history as the first Chinese woman to visit the Tianhe space station. In addition, she also became the first Chinese woman to conduct a spacewalk. The trio carried out a total of two spacewalks; various tests and numerous scientific experiments were also performed around the station, installation of space equipment. Significant moments of the trip were the two live lectures held with students watching from Earth.
China is on a mission to construct a space station called Tiangong space station. This mission called Shenzhou 13 is part of 11 missions China has planned to finish the construction. China first launched the Tianhe module in April 2021 and later sent three taikonauts to bring the station online. As noted by a space report, crew members of the Shenzhou 14 are getting set to depart for the space station in June. This move is part of China’s plans to have the station completed by the end of the year, after which two additional modules will be set to launch.
While six months in the space station looks like a long period of time, it’s a typical timeframe mission to the International Space Station, which China is excluded from and is already very used to. China has spent the past 10 years developing technologies to build the Tiangong, the only space station other than the ISS. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth sometime last month after spending 355 consecutive days in space. Reports say Mark Vande Hei currently holds the American record for the longest stay in space.
The country aims to rival the US and Russia while becoming a major player in space by 2030. According to reports China has already landed a rover on Mars and sent probes to the Moon. The country’s National Space Administration has disclosed that by 2029 a crewed lunar mission will be launched.