China astronauts return after 90 days aboard space station

BEIJING, Sept. 17 (BNA): Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth Friday after a 90-day stay aboard their country’s first space station on China’s longest mission to date, according to the Associated Press.

Ni Haisheng, Liu Beoming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft just after 1:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) after they emerged from the space station Thursday morning.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting into the Gobi Desert, where it was received by helicopters and off-road vehicles. Minutes later, a crew of technicians began to open the capsule’s hatch that appeared intact.

After launch on June 17, mission leader Ni and astronauts Liu and Tang went on two spacewalks, deployed a 10-meter (33-foot) mechanical arm, and made a video call with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

The government has not announced the names of the next group of astronauts, nor the launch date of Shenzhou-13.

China has sent 14 astronauts into space since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so alone.

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