China’s space station has welcomed back three astronauts, after their six-month mission
The Tiangong station, a symbol of China’s ambitious space program, has been completed after six months of construction by three Chinese astronauts.
Ascending three astronauts — Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe — touched down at a landing site in the Gobi Desert, in northern China at approximately 8:10 p.m. (1210 GMT), according to China Central Television.
Past Chinese space exploration
After the Soviet Union and the United States, only China launched astronauts into space and built a space station.
Tiangong Space Station, or “Heavenly Palace”, is China’s new permanent space station. Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 were temporary trial space stations that have already been launched by the country.
On June 5, the astronauts left for space to supervise the last phase of construction of the Tiangong space station.
On Sunday, the crew of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft landed in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China. The Chinese space agency declared the mission a success.
In 1970, China launched its first satellite, as it was being impacted by the Cultural Revolution. It has launched more than 200 rockets in the past decade.
The arrival of the three astronauts
In an audio broadcast, by CCTV, Chen Dong and teammates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe said they were feeling well, after landing.
After the touchdown, medical staff evacuated the astronauts from the capsule. Waving happily at workers at the landing site, they were all smiles and appeared to be in pristine condition.
Chen, the first out of the capsule, said he felt blessed to have witnessed the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station. “Like meteors, we returned to our motherland.”
Work done in space
In space, the astronauts oversaw the arrival of Tiangong’s second and third modules as well as performed three spacewalks to test the new equipment.
“They conducted many scientific experiments, including some extra experiments that they didn’t receive the training for. Also did some activities like filming videos for the public good. They are just wonderful,” the taikonaut system chief designer said.
In the next decade, China expects to send two crewed missions a year to Tiangong.
For future missions, China is now accepting astronaut candidates from the “special administrative regions” of Macau and Hong Kong.
The country has already sent an unmanned mission to the Moon, called Chang’e 5, to collect rocks and return them. It planted a Chinese flag on the lunar surface – which was deliberately much larger than previous US flags.