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Home World News Washington Post World News Chinese astronauts land on space station after 6 months

Chinese astronauts land on space station after 6 months

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BEIJING — Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday after six months aboard their country’s newest orbital station in the longest manned mission to date for China’s ambitious space program.

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

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

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

On Saturday, state television showed images from inside the capsule as it traveled over Africa at 200 meters per second before entering the atmosphere.

The trio were the second crew aboard Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace. The core module, Tianhe, was launched in April 2021. Construction is scheduled to be completed this year by adding two more modules.

Authorities have not yet announced a date for the launch of the next Tiangong crew.

China is banned from the International Space Station because of the US unease that its space program is being led by the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army.

After the former Soviet Union and the United States, China was the third country to independently launch an astronaut into space.

Tiangong is China’s third space station after its predecessors launched in 2011 and 2016.

The government announced in 2020 that China’s first reusable spacecraft had landed after a test flight, but no photos or details of the vehicle have been released.

On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping visited the launch site at Wenchang in the southern island of Hainan, from which the Tianhe module was launched into orbit.

“Continue to push the boundaries of global aerospace development and the key strategic needs of national aerospace,” Xi told site personnel, all in military uniform.



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