BEIJING, Sept. 17 (BNA) Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after the longest Chinese manned space mission so far, the German news agency (dpa) International reported.
The return capsule of the Shenzhou 12 ship was slowed down as it landed with a large parachute and finally landed in the Gobi Desert in northern China, as shown live on China’s state broadcaster CCTV.
Astronauts Ni Haisheng, Liu Beoming and Tang Hongbo blasted off from Earth on June 17 and spent three months in space — a record for Chinese space travelers.
Closed-circuit television showed images of rescue teams using all-terrain vehicles and helicopters rushing to the landing site to help the astronauts out of the capsule.
“I want to tell my parents that I’m back. Good health and in good spirits. Everything is fine!” Tang Hongbo told the TV cameras as he and his colleagues recuperated on the chairs in front of the capsule.
“With the growing power of China and the rise in the level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe that there will be more Chinese astronauts making breakthroughs and setting new records in the future,” said mission leader Ni Haisheng.
The astronauts spent most of their journey on the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station, which is still under construction and so far consists of only the Tianhe (Heavenly Harmony) basic unit. The space station is scheduled to be completed by 2022, and China plans to send two more heavy modules, each weighing 20 tons, into space by then.
A cargo flight carrying more material is scheduled to fly next week, and a new crew is scheduled to travel to the space station in October.
If the International Space Station (ISS) is decommissioned as planned in the next few years, China will likely be the only country still holding a permanent position in space. Chinese astronauts were not allowed to participate in the International Space Station missions at the insistence of the United States.
China is pressing ahead with its ambitious space programme. After several successful flights to the Moon, the People’s Republic of China delivered the Zhurong rover to Mars in mid-May, becoming the first country to do so on its first trip to the Red Planet. In the medium term, China has also announced plans to send humans to the Moon.