After a flawless re-entry on Friday after 90 days aboard China's Tiangong space station, the returning astronauts exited from their capsule and waved to the waiting cameras.
The BBC said that Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Honbo landed in Inner Mongolia's Gobi desert on Friday at about 1:35 p.m. local time. They had taken off for space on the 17th of June from the same desert.
Chinese astronauts spent around three months aboard the Tianhe module of China's space station, located 236 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth. The three astronauts boarded the Shenzhou-12 crewed spacecraft on Thursday and disembarked from the space station. The mission's accomplishment is just another example of China's rising confidence and capabilities in space.
China's Mission Slated on October
Ni joked with his fellow astronauts, using a Chinese adage, "true gold fears no fire" before their capsule was consumed in flames as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. South China Morning Post said that Chinese state media CCTV live-streamed the arrival.
Within minutes of the touchdown, the ground rescue team's helicopter arrived at the landing site, followed by the "Warrior" all-terrain vehicles. The return capsule was opened after a thorough examination of its condition, with medical staff on hand to do a preliminary check on the three astronauts. Two physicians were assigned to each member of the crew.
A source at the Jiuquan satellite launch center told SCMP that the astronauts also returned back samples from the tests they did throughout their 90-day trip.
The samples are still needed for additional processing, according to the source. However, all of the data was delivered before they departed the space station.
After medical checks and quarantine, the source said the astronauts would meet the next group of astronauts heading to the Tiangong space station in the Shenzhou-13 mission. The insider added that the next mission is set to launch in early October.
China Entering Space Race
This year, the Chinese space agency is expected to have 11 launches, including three more crewed missions that will transport two lab modules to add the 70-tonne station.
In recent years, China has invested billions of dollars into its military-led space program in an attempt to catch up to the US and Russia.
Beijing's space ambitions have been fueled in part by a US prohibition on Chinese astronauts participating in the International Space Station, a joint venture of the US, Russia, Canada, Europe, and Japan.
NASA is supposed to decommission the ISS in 2024. However, the space agency said that it may continue operational until 2028.
An astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Jonathan McDowell, told AFP (via France24) that China is still officially behind the United States.
According to McDowell, the significant US advantage in human spaceflight is a comprehensive experience.
Two spacewalks, for example, are not the same as hundreds of ISS spacewalks, according to McDowell. He emphasized the importance of quantity.
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