Monday, October 25, 2021

Chinese astronauts return safely to Earth after 90 days; mission to build a space station successfully

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The Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship carrying astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at around 13:35 local time, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said.

China on Friday announced that the manned mission to construct its first space station was a complete success after three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth after 90 days, concluding the country’s longest crewed mission.

The mission to construct the space station was a complete success, it said.

They spent 90 days at the Tianhe module on China’s space station, some 380km above Earth.

The three astronauts from the Shenzhou-12 manned spaceflight mission are in good condition after landing on Earth, official media reported.

Earlier, the main parachute of the re-entry capsule of Shenzhou-12 was deployed successfully ahead of the spacecraft’s landing in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The three astronauts entered the space station module in June this year on a three-month mission to build many of its components.

Billed as the most prestigious and strategically important space project for China after the country’s recent Mars and previous Moon missions, the low orbit space station would be the country’s eye from the sky, providing round the clock bird’s-eye view for its astronauts on the rest of the world. The space station is expected to be ready by next year.

This is China’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years. China previously sent the space station’s Tianhe core cabin module on April 29, and a cargo spacecraft with supplies on May 29.

Once ready, the station is expected to be opened for China’s close allies like Pakistan and other international space cooperation partners. Ji Qiming, an assistant to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) director, told the media on Wednesday that besides close cooperation with Russia, China is also having bilateral cooperation exchanges with countries including France, Italy, Pakistan and others focussing on space experiments in fundamental physics, space medicine and space autonomy on the space station.

Separately, China and Russia also unveiled a roadmap to build a lunar space station, official media reported. The station aims to develop research facilities on the surface of the moon, in orbit or both. Once ready, China will be the only country to own a space station while the ageing International Space Station (ISS) is now a collaborative project of several countries.

It is expected to be a competitor to the ISS and perhaps may become a sole space station to remain in orbit once the ISS retires. The ISS is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) which is operated by Russia, while the United States Orbital Segment (USOS) is run by the US as well as many other nations.

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  • Chinese astronauts return safely to Earth after 90 days; mission to build a space station successfully
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