Gobi (China) After 90 days in China’s first space station, three astronauts are safely back on earth. They touched down with the capsule of the spaceship “Shenzhou 12” in the Gobi desert in northern China, as pictures from the state broadcaster CCTV showed. A large parachute slowed the landing. The trio had undocked from the space station on Thursday. It was China’s longest manned space mission to date.
Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo took off from Earth on June 17 and spent three months in space, a record for Chinese space travelers. The astronauts spent a large part of their journey in the space station “Tiangong” which translates to “Heavenly Palace”. It is still under construction and so far only consists of the “Tianhe” (Heavenly Harmony) module. It should be ready in the coming year if everything goes according to plan. Until then, China wants to bring two more laboratory modules, each weighing about 20 tons, into space. The next flight is planned for October.
CCTV showed images of rescue teams rushing to the landing site in off-road vehicles and helicopters to help the astronauts out of the capsule. “I want to tell my parents that I’m back. In good health and in a good mood. Everything is great!” Tang Hongbo said into the television cameras, while he and his two astronaut colleagues were relaxing on white chairs in front of the capsule.
If the international space station ISS goes out of service as planned in the next few years, China would be the only country that still operates a permanent outpost in space. Chinese astronauts were sofar not allowed to participate in missions on the ISS at the urging of the USA.