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Chinese Astronauts Return To Earth After Six Months Mission

The three astronauts – commander Chen Dong and teammates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – who had been overseeing the final and critical construction period at the space station, which was completed in November

Photo Credit : China Daily

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Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday aboard the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft, according to state broadcaster CCTV, bringing a six-month mission on China's space station to a close.

In an audio broadcast on CCTV, the three astronauts – commander Chen Dong and teammates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – who had been overseeing the final and critical construction period at the space station, which was completed in November, all said they were feeling well after landing.

The capsule landed at 8.09 p.m. (local time) at the Dongfeng site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, with space agency staff declaring the entire mission, a “complete success,” which began on 5 June, according to CCTV.

The exhausted-looking crew was carried out one by one by staff at the landing site and just after 9 p.m., all three had safely exited the capsule.

On Wednesday, a new crew of three Chinese astronauts arrived at the space station aboard the Shenzhou-15 to take their place.

The space station is a significant milestone in China's three-decade-long manned space programme, which was first authorised in 1992. It also marks the beginning of a permanent Chinese presence in space. Also, the Chinese space station with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, could one day be the only space station still operational if the International Space Station retires as expected by the end of the decade.

The station's construction began in April of last year with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of its three modules, which will house visiting astronauts.

After the former Soviet Union and the United States, China became the third government to send an astronaut into orbit on its own in 2003.

China has also achieved unmanned mission success: its Yutu 2 rover was the first to explore the moon's little-known far side. Its Chang'e 5 probe will also return lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s in December 2020, and another Chinese rover is looking for signs of life on Mars.


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