Chinese language astronauts land after historic 3-month mission to new house station

The primary crewed mission to China’s new house station is within the books.

A spacecraft carrying Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo touched down safely within the Gobi Desert in Interior Mongolia in the present day (Sept. 17) at 1:34 a.m. EDT (0534 GMT; 1:34 p.m. Beijing time) in the present day, bringing the historic Shenzhou 12 mission to an finish.

Shenzhou 12 launched on June 16 and arrived seven hours later at Tianhe (“Concord of the Heavens”), the core module of China’s Earth-orbiting house station. The Shenzhou 12 crew, commanded by Nie, spent 90 days aboard Tianhe, staying aloft about thrice longer than any earlier Chinese language crewed spaceflight. 

Shenzhou 12’s return to Earth was a multiday affair. The spacecraft indifferent from Tianhe Wednesday (Sept. 15) at 8:56 p.m. EDT (0056 GMT on Sept. 16), in response to an announcement launched by the China Manned House Engineering Workplace (CMSEO). Shenzhou 12 then carried out a rendezvous check with Tianhe, which was full by 1:38 a.m. EDT (0538 GMT) Thursday (Sept. 16), CMSEO officers stated in one other replace.

Associated: The newest information about China’s house program

Throughout their time in orbit, the Shenzhou 12 astronauts snapped some superb images of Earth and carried out a wide range of scientific experiments. Additionally they carried out two spacewalks designed to assist get the 54-foot-long (16.6 meters) Tianhe absolutely up and working and prepared for future visits, which will likely be frequent over the approaching months.

For instance, China is predicted to ship the robotic Tianzhou 3 cargo spacecraft towards Tianhe round Sept. 20. And the subsequent crewed mission to the module, the six-month-long Shenzhou 13, is outwardly scheduled to launch in mid-October. (Actual goal dates are laborious to return by with Chinese language missions, as a result of the nation tends to not announce many particulars of its spaceflight plans prematurely.)

China additionally plans to launch two extra modules to orbit, which can hyperlink up with Tianhe to type a three-piece house station known as Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) that is about 20% as huge because the Worldwide House Station (ISS). Meeting of this orbital outpost is predicted to be accomplished subsequent 12 months. 

“Tiangong” ought to sound acquainted to house followers, as a result of China launched two pathfinder house labs with that title within the final decade. Tiangong 1 reached Earth orbit in September 2011 and hosted two crewed missions, Shenzhou 9 in June 2012 and Shenzhou 10 in June 2013. Tiangong 2 went up in September 2016 and welcomed the Shenzhou 11 astronauts aboard for a 30-day mission the subsequent month.

Each of these Tiangongs are lengthy gone. Tiangong 1 made an uncontrolled reentry to Earth’s environment in April 2018, burning up over the Pacific Ocean. Tiangong 2 was steered to a deliberate demise, additionally over the Pacific, in July 2019.

Shenzhou 12’s touchdown comes simply in the future earlier than one other extremely anticipated return — that of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, the first-ever all-civilian journey to Earth orbit. Inspiration4 launched on Wednesday evening (Sept. 15), sending 4 individuals on a three-day journey round our planet. It is scheduled to splash down on Saturday (Sept. 18).

Shenzhou 12, Inspiration4 and the Worldwide House Station have been all aloft on the identical time for just a few days this week, setting a brand new report for the most individuals in house concurrently (14). The ISS, after all, is an orbital fixture, having hosted rotating astronaut crews constantly since November 2000.

Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book in regards to the seek for alien life. Observe him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Fb. 

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