Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday, April 16, after spending 183 days in space, marking the completion of the country’s longest crewed mission to date as it pursues.
A live feed from state broadcaster CCTV showed the capsule crashing into the earth in a cloud of dust, with ground crew members who had stayed away from the landing location racing to the capsule in helicopters.
They were returned to Earth soon before 10 a.m. Beijing time (0200 GMT) after spending six months aboard the Tianhe core module of China’s Tiangong space station. Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu, and Wang Yaping were the three astronauts who returned to Earth.
As the astronauts took turns reporting that they were in excellent physical condition, the ground crew cheered enthusiastically.
He was the first to emerge from the capsule, almost 45 minutes after landing. He waved and grinned as he was hoisted onto a specially built chair and then wrapped in a blanket by members of the ground team.
As part of China’s first permanent space station — Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace,” the trio was originally launched in the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft from the country’s northwestern Gobi Desert last October as the second of four crewed missions during 2021-2022 to assemble the country’s first permanent space station.
Wang made history by becoming the first Chinese woman to spacewalk in November, when she and her colleague Zhai completed a six-hour spacewalk to install equipment on the International Space Station.
Mission commander Zhai, 55, is a former fighter pilot who was part of China’s first spacewalk in 2008, while mission co-ordinator Ye is a pilot with the People’s Liberation Army.
During their stay in space, the trio has undertaken two spacewalks, carried out various scientific experiments, installed equipment, and evaluated technology for future building projects, among other accomplishments.
Over the last several weeks, the astronauts have been cleaning and prepping the cabin and equipment for the crew of the next Shenzhou-14 spacecraft, which is anticipated to launch in the coming months.
The Shenzhou-12 mission, which took place last year and lasted 92 days, established the previous record for the longest of a Chinese spaceflight mission.
According to the Chinese official media CCTV, the standard astronaut residency term on the Chinese space station would be six months starting in 2019.