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The three astronauts of the Shenzhou-13 mission returned to Earth on Saturday after six months on the Chinese space station, state television channel CCTV announced. This is the longest stay in space ever undertaken by China.

This is another successful step for Beijing in its ambitious space program to catch up with the United States, Europe and Russia.

After firing its red and white parachute, the return capsule where the crew had taken place – made up of a woman and two men – landed shortly before 10 in the morning (4 in the morning in Switzerland) in the Inner Mongolia desert. (North of China). “Shenzhou-13’s return capsule landed successfully,” state broadcaster CCTV said.

Live CCTV footage showed the capsule landing in a cloud of dust. Ground crews, who had stayed away from the landing site, rushed in helicopters to reach the capsule. The ground crew cheered as the astronauts took turns saying they felt “good.”

stay of 183 days

With 183 days in space, the crew breaks the previous national record for a stay in space of 92 days, which was set in 2021 during the previous manned mission, Shenzhou-12.

The crew consisted of three army pilots: Commander Zhai Zhigang (55), his colleague Wang Yaping (42), and the younger Ye Guangfu (41), whose first space flight was.

“Les sejours de six mois sont fréquents, que ce soit pour (l’ancienne station russo-soviétique) Mir ou pour la Station spatiale internationale (ISS)”, revealed Jonathan McDowell, astronome au Center Harvard-Smithsonian pour l’astrophysique, In the U.S.

“The goal (with Shenzhou-13) was not in itself to set a record but to develop the necessary skills for a permanent occupation of the station,” China’s ultimate goal, he told AFP.

Named Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) in Chinese but also known by its English acronym CSS (for “Chinese Space Station” in French), it should be completed by the end of 2022. Similar in size to Mir, its lifespan should be fifteen years.

Next steps

An analysis of the health status of the Shenzhou-13 astronauts will allow China to learn more about the impact of a prolonged absence of gravity on organisms.

In six months, the crew also continued construction of the station, taught two online courses for Chinese schoolchildren, conducted experiments, and refined their mastery of long stays.

“For example, they have improved their maintenance skills, through space walks and manipulations of the robotic arm” of the station, Chen Lan, an analyst at the site, specializing in the Chinese space program, told AFP. Shenzhou-13 “was not a significant breakthrough,” but “the completion of CSS later this year will be a very important event,” he said.

Next stages of construction: shipping a freighter in May and then another manned mission, Shenzhou-14, which should launch in June.

The last two modules of the space station will be sent from July. They will take command of space from the Wenchang launch center, located on the tropical island of Hainan (south) and whose Chinese president, Xi Jinping, said Thursday that he wanted to make it a “world-class” site. From Shenzhou-14, the CSS should be permanently busy.

This article has been published automatically. Sources: ats/afp

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