Three astronauts return from China’s longest manned space mission

This is China’s longest-ever stay in space: The three astronauts on the Shenzhou-13 mission returned to Earth on Saturday, April 16, after six months on the Chinese space station. A new successful step for Beijing in its ambitious space program, which aims to catch up with the United States, Europe and Russia.

After launching its red and white parachute, the return capsule, where the crew – made up of a woman and two men – was just before 4 am French time, landed in the Inner Mongolian desert (Northern China).

“Shenzhou-13 return capsule successfully landed”, said State Television (CCTV). Live footage showed the capsule descending into a cloud of dust. Ground crews, moving away from the landing site, rushed helicopters to reach the capsule. Applaud the astronauts who took turns saying they felt it ” Hassan “.

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The “Heavenly Palace”, which was built at the end of 2022 AD

With 183 days in space, the crew broke the previous national record, set in 2021, during the previous manned mission, Shenzhou-12, which was 92 days. The crew was made up of three military pilots: Commander Zhai Zhigang (55 years old), his colleague Wang Yaping (42) and the youngest Ye Guangfu (41 years old), which was her first space flight.

“Six-month stays are common, both for Mir [l’ancienne station russo-soviétique] Or the International Space Station [ISS] »Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the US noted. ” Target [avec Shenzhou-13] It was not in itself to create a record but to develop the skills necessary for permanent employment at the station.”He told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that it is China’s ultimate goal.

Dubbed “Tiangong” (“Heavenly Palace”), but also known by the English acronym CSS (meaning “Chinese Space Station” in French), it is supposed to be completed by the end of 2022. Similar to the Mir in size, it should be around five years old. ten years.

Next manned mission in June

Images from China Television (CCTV) show a return capsule about to land in Inner Mongolia, April 16, 2022.

Analysis of the health of the astronauts in Shenzhou-13 will allow China to learn more about the consequences of the prolonged absence of gravity for living organisms. Within six months, the crew also continued building the station, hosting two online courses for Chinese schoolchildren, conducting experiments and honing their mastery for long-term accommodation.

“For example, they improved their maintenance skills with spacewalking and robotic arm manipulation.” Station details told AFP Chen Lan, an analyst for GoTaikonauts.com who specializes in China’s space program. It wasn’t Shenzhou-13 either ‘Not a significant hack’ But “Completing CSS later this year will be a very important event”pointed out.

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Next phases of construction: dispatch of a cargo ship in May and then another manned mission, Shenzhou-14, which is scheduled to launch in June. The last two space station modules will be dispatched from July. They will take the direction of space from the Wenchang launch center, located on the tropical island of Hainan (south). Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that he wants to make it a site “my world”. From Shenzhou-14, CSS must be occupied permanently.

Already many successes in space

Once poor, China is now investing billions of euros in its space programme. The Asian giant sent its first astronaut into space in 2003. Since then, it has made some remarkable achievements, especially in recent years.

China landed a device on the far side of the moon in early 2019 (a world first). In 2020, it brought back samples from the Moon and completed Beidou, a satellite navigation system (the competitor to the US GPS). In 2021, it has landed a small robot on Mars and plans to send men to the Moon by 2030.

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China’s ambition to build its own station has been fueled by the American refusal to accept the Chinese on the International Space Station – a program that NASA is experimenting with. That did not prevent the Shenzhou-13 crew from discussing last week with 150 young Americans, parents and teachers gathered at the initiative of the Chinese Embassy in Washington. During this meeting, a video message was broadcast from the president of the American company SpaceX, Elon Musk, who called “Humanity to work together” to conquer space.

The world with AFP

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