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Three Chinese astronauts return safely to Earth
Three Chinese astronauts return safely to Earth
by AFP Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 4, 2023

Three Chinese astronauts working at the country's space station have returned safely to Earth, state media reported Sunday, hailing the mission as a "complete success".

The return capsule of the Shenzhou-15 spaceship touched down at a landing site in northern China's Inner Mongolia region, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Astronauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu emerged from the capsule in "good physical condition", Xinhua reported.

"The mission... was a complete success," it said.

Footage showed medical officials in white jumpsuits and face masks swaddling the astronauts in blue blankets and carrying them away from the arid landing site, where the copper-coloured capsule lay flanked by red flags.

The trio had spent six months at the Tiangong space station, conducting spacewalks and a variety of scientific experiments.

China last week sent three more astronauts -- including its first civilian in orbit -- to the space station as part of the successor Shenzhou-16 mission.

The world's second-largest economy has pumped billions of dollars into its military-run space programme in an effort to catch up with the United States and Russia.

Beijing aims to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030 and plans to build a base on the lunar surface.

Shenzhou XV crew lands in Inner Mongolia
Beijing (XNA) Jun 02, 2023 - Completing a six-month mission that included the successful completion of the Tiangong space station, the Shenzhou XV mission crew returned to Earth early Sunday morning.

The crew's reentry capsule, carrying Major General Fei Junlong, the mission's commander, and Senior Colonels Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, descended at the Dongfeng Landing Site, situated in northwestern China's Gobi Desert at 6:33 am. This marked the end of a nine-hour reentry trajectory from space.

On touchdown, recovery teams on the ground promptly opened the hatch and conducted an initial assessment of the astronauts' condition. They reported back to the control center in Beijing via radio, confirming their safe landing and overall good health.

Following preliminary checks, the recovery team assisted the astronauts out of the capsule, helping them onto chairs positioned in front of the capsule. Here, the astronauts shared their experiences and thoughts during a live program with a reporter from China Central Television.

Mission commander Fei Junlong, marking his second spaceflight, confirmed that all their tasks were completed successfully and the crew was in good condition. Deng Qingming, who represents the last of the first generation of Chinese astronauts to travel to space, expressed his joy upon returning to Earth and seeing familiar faces.

Deng conveyed his gratitude to all Chinese citizens for their continuous support and encouragement throughout their mission, and acknowledged the efforts of the space industry workers involved in the mission. His 25-year long journey to space stands as a testament to the perseverance and dedication of Chinese astronauts.

Similarly, Zhang Lu shared his personal experiences from the mission, revealing how he would often try to spot familiar landmarks while orbiting over China. Zhang expressed his eagerness to return to training and contribute to the 'New Era' as soon as his health permits.

Following the interview, the astronauts were transported to undergo thorough health checks. Subsequently, they are scheduled to be flown back to Beijing.

The Shenzhou XV team, the fourth group to be stationed at the Chinese station, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on November 29. They met with the Shenzhou XIV crew the next day, marking the first time six Chinese individuals were in space concurrently and the first in-orbit handover between two Chinese crews.

By the time of their return, the crew had spent 186 days in orbit. Their successful mission included four spacewalks, the installation of essential equipment on the Tiangong, and conducting various scientific experiments and technology tests. They also effectively configured the Tiangong for the next crew, transferred scientific data back to Earth, and sorted materials between the station and their spaceship.

The Shenzhou XVI flight team, consisting of Major General Jing Haipeng, Colonel Zhu Yangzhu, and Professor Gui Haichao, the first Chinese civilian in space, have now taken over the responsibilities of running the Tiangong for the next five months, with their return planned for November.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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