Shenzhou-13 crew safely returns to Earth after record six months in orbit

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The Shenzhou-13 crew returned safely to Earth after their epic six-month orbital journey, which nearly doubled the previous record for China’s longest single-flight space mission of 92 days set by the Shenzhou-12. , approximately eight hours after the launch of the manned spacecraft. detachment of the main module from Tianhe.

The Shenzhou-13 return capsule made a successful landing at 9:56 a.m. Saturday at Dongfeng Landing Site in the Gobi Desert in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The medical team has confirmed that the crew of the three taikonauts is in good health, marking the full success of the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceflight mission, the Global Times learned from the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) on Saturday. ).

The ground control team ordered the return at 9:06, and the return capsule separated with the Shenzhou-13 successfully. After that, at 9:30 a.m., the return capsule separated from the propulsion part, according to CMSA.

The ground rescue and recovery team arrived immediately at the landing point and medics opened the hatch and confirmed that the crew was in good condition.

The three astronauts emerge from the return capsule at 11:05 a.m. and adjust to gravity, CMSA updated.

The Shenzhou-13 crew emerged from the return capsule one hour and 10 minutes after landing, faster than the Shenzhou-12 crew which took one hour and 40 minutes.

Shenzhou-13 mission commander Zhai Zhigang exited the return capsule first, saying he “feel good.” After him, “the star-picking mom is home,” said Shenzhou-13 crew member Wang Yaping, China’s first spacewalker, greeting her daughter with a big smile after left the return capsule. And Ye Guangfu, the youngest member of the three soon joined them with a good mood.

Astronaut Wang Yaping steps out of the return capsule of the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, April 16, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Sichuan sausages, yogurt, eggs… the crew will have a wide variety of food options for their first meal back on Earth with around 20 dishes, CCTV reported.

The crew arrived in Beijing in the afternoon, followed by a brief welcome ceremony at the airport. The three taikonauts will undergo three to four weeks of quarantine, rest and routine rehabilitation. They are expected to return to regular training after around six months, according to the CCTV report.

Besides the long-term stay in space, the mission set many records and firsts in the country’s manned space history.

The Shenzhou spacecraft developer, China Academy of Spacecraft Technology (CAST), revealed in a statement sent to the Global Times that the Shenzhou-13 mission also explored emergency mission mechanics for the first time, with the spacecraft Shenzhou-14 manned spacecraft and Long March-2F Y14 rocket in waiting position just after the launch of Shenzhou-13 and Long March-2F Y13. This allowed for potential space rescue of taikonauts from Shenzhou-13 in the event of a malfunction preventing the spacecraft from returning to Earth.

Compared to the return trip of the Shenzhou-12 mission which took about 28 hours, the Shenzhou-13 performed a rapid return maneuver which took only eight hours.

CAST explained that the orbit plan of Shenzhou-13 has been simplified to five orbits compared to the 18 of the Shenzhou-12 mission, and it was designed to further improve return efficiency, shorten surveillance on the ground and make it more comfortable for returning astronauts.

Picture: Internet

Pictured: The recovery and rescue team arrives at the landing point of the Shenzhou-13 return capsule just after landing.

Shenzhou-12’s 18 towers included experimental hover tasks, and the traditional plan was 11½ towers, deputy chief designer Shao Limin told the Global Times.

The Shenzhou-13 crew’s unprecedented six-month stay in orbit was taken into consideration and the plan was to make their return journey more comfortable, Shao noted.

Wang Ya’nan, editor of Beijing-based magazine Aerospace Knowledge, told the Global Times that this approach required more precise control of the spacecraft and more precise orbital calculations, so that the spacecraft, once separated, could quickly target the landing area, calculate the return path and adjust its altitude.

“Having the ability to adopt such a rapid return method indicates that China’s return technology for manned missions is very mature and reliable,” Wang added.

To ensure their safe and smooth return, the taikonauts did physical exercises to train their muscles. During this time, the ground support team assessed their physical and psychological condition and made targeted adjustments.

“The reason why the physical and psychological state of the three crew members is better than expected is that we have arranged their life and work in space carefully, in an orderly and rational manner. If the arrangements were not not carefully designed, their mental state could have easily gone wrong,” Wang explained.

Shenzhou-13 taikonauts performed two successful spacewalks with Wang Yaping, who became the first Chinese woman in history to perform the maneuver. Wang is also the record holder for the longest stay in orbit of any Chinese astronaut.

The crew gave two science lectures in the Tiangong classroom for students on Earth, connecting with young people from Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, and the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Xizang.

They have also played an important role in many historic moments in China over the past six months, sending their blessings and congratulations on the Chinese New Year and joining the audience of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics since the space.

Thanks to advances in space communication technologies, crew members were able to entertain themselves on the Internet, talk frequently to family and friends, and have regular space-Earth interactions. The two space conferences also helped a lot to improve their mental state.

Launch history of manned space missions by Long March-2F carrier rockets

Launch history of manned space missions by Long March-2F carrier rockets

Pang Zhihao, a senior space expert, told the Global Times on Saturday that it would normally take astronauts returning from space about three months to recover their strength. However, it might take a little longer for the Shenzhou-13 crew because they’ve been in space for such a long time, Pang said.

After the success of the Shenzhou-13 mission, China’s Space Station will enter an in-orbit construction phase with two lab modules to be added to the base module, per program insiders.

Bai Linhou, deputy chief designer of China’s space station, said in an interview that two experimental modules are expected to be launched in the second half of this year. Module verification and assembly work is progressing smoothly.

The two laboratory modules are over 17 meters long and over 4 meters in diameter.

The Wentian module is positioned to perform space science experiments inside and outside the cabin. It has an airlock through which taikonauts can exit, and a small robotic arm that can be used alone or combined with the large mechanical arm of the space station.

It can also serve as a backup to the main cabin, Bai said. If there is a malfunction in the main cabin, the Wentian module can replace it immediately, improving the reliability of the operation of the whole station.

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