Chinese astronauts have successfully returned to earth after 90 days aboard the country’s Tiangong space station.
The re-entry module, carrying the three crew members of the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft entered the atmosphere without issue and landed in the Gobi desert at 1300 hours local time (12.55 PM IST).
China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported that the crew were in good health, and will undergo a 14-day long quarantine.
The crew was launched on July 17th, coinciding with the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary the same month. The longest crewed mission to space in the country’s history, it displayed China’s growing ambitions and prowess in the space race.
The astronauts were the first visitors to China’s newest space station, the Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace in Chinese. Over the last three months, they completed crucial functions preparing the core Tianhe module.
China is building its own space station rivaling the International Space Station (ISS). The station is expected to have about 115 cubic meters of living space, with a mass of about 68,000 kilograms.
For comparison, the ISS has over 380 cubic meters of living space and has a mass of over 400,000 kilograms. Essentially, when complete the Tiangong Space Station will be roughly one-sixth the size of the ISS.
Work on the station began in April this year when the core module was delivered to low-earth-orbit. The station is considered the flagship project of China’s ambitious space program, which in recent years has seen the country send probes to the moon and successfully land a Martian rover.
China’s decision to build its space station came after the United States forbade NASA from working with China and Chinese companies, citing national security companies. The move led to diplomatic tensions between the countries and essentially cut off China’s access to the International Space Station.
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