Chinese astronauts return to Earth after China’s longest crewed space mission

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Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday after six months aboard China’s newest space station in the longest crewed mission to date for its ambitious space program.

The Shenzhou-13 space capsule landed in the Gobi desert in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, shown live on state TV.

During the mission, astronaut Wang Yaping carried out the first spacewalk by a Chinese woman. Wang and crewmates Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu beamed back physics lessons for high school students.

After touchdown, the trio left the Dongfeng landing site by helicopter for a 40-minute flight to Dingxin Airport in neighbouring Gansu province. From there, they were to be sent to Beijing by plane.

From the left, astronauts Ye Guangfu, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping wave after entering the space station core module Tianhe on Oct. 16, 2021. (Tian Dingyu/Xinhua/The Associated Press)

The three astronauts began the mission upon liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Oct. 16, 2021. The crew lived and worked on China’s space station Tiangong for 183 days, the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts.

China launched its first astronaut into space in 2003 and landed robot rovers on the moon in 2013 and on Mars last year. Officials have discussed a possible crewed mission to the moon.



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