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Chinese astronaut returns from record-long mission

China Central Television (CCTV) reported that the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft landed in the Gobi desert in the northern region of Inner Mongolia at around 10 a.m. local time.

The three-man crew – consisting of Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping – landed safely after 183 days in space, ending the longest space mission ever.

Shenzhou 13 has landed successfully“, CCTV broadcaster said.

Chinese astronaut returns from record-long mission - 1

The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft returned to Earth after a six-month mission on the Tiangong space station. (Photo: CCTV)

During this mission, Ms. Wang Yaping became the first Chinese woman to go into space when she and Zhai Zhigang installed equipment at the Tiangong space station in November 2021.

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang, 55, is a former pilot. He made his first space trip in 2008.

The last member, Mr. Ye Guangfu, is a pilot of the People’s Liberation Army.

Over a six-month period, the astronauts performed two spacewalks, conducted science experiments, set up equipment, and tested the technology. In addition, the astronauts also cleaned and prepared equipment in the cabin of Shenzhou 14 – expected to be launched in the next few months.

Shenzhou-13 is the second of four trips that China needs to make to complete the space station by the end of 2022.

After being banned by the US from participating in the International Space Station (ISS), China has spent the past 10 years developing technology to build Thien Cung – the only space station outside the ISS.

Beijing aims to become a space power by 2030, on par with the US and Russia. To that end, China has sent a rover on Mars and sent other probes to the Moon. According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the country plans to conduct a space mission on the Moon in 2029.

On April 12, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the launch site at Wenchang on Hainan Island. Here, Mr. Xi said: “Persevere in pursuing the boundaries of world aerospace development and the grand strategic needs of the national aerospace industry“.

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