Safety prioritized, inclusiveness stressed in China’s manned space missions. Having extended the record of Chinese astronauts’ longest stay in space in a single flight mission to 90 days, the Shenzhou-12 mission crew returned to Earth days before China’s Mid-Autumn Festival – the day of family reunion and friend gatherings – at the designated Dongfeng landing site in the Gobi Desert, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Friday, marking a successful conclusion of the first crewed mission at the country’s space station building stage.
The Shenzhou-12 return module separated from the orbiting module at 12:43 pm on Friday, and was then followed by a smooth separation from the propellant, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).
Carrying the three taikonauts – mission commander NieHaisheng, and his fellow crew members Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – the return capsule touched down at the landed safely.
The mission will soon be followed with another manned mission of Shenzhou-13, which observers believed will take place in a few weeks in October, following the launch of another cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-3 that will deliver the life necessities and experimental equipment to Tianhe core cabin for the next crew.
The next crew is expected to stay in orbit for an even longer six months, which may include the first female taikonaut in the space station building stage.
It also marked the first time the Dongfeng site has received a returning Shenzhou mission, taking the place of the Siziwang Banner site, the traditional go-to landing site for China’s manned space flights.
The choice of landing site was based on a number of factors, including climate, topography, returning options, and rescue and search equipment, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based space expert and retired researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology, told the Global Times on Friday.
China will carry out two more space launches for the building of its own space station this year – the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft via a Long March-7 carrier rocket from Wenchang spaceport in Hainan and another manned flight on a Shenzhou-13 spacecraft via a Long March-2F rocket from Jiuquancenter.
An official update by the CMSA on Thursday said that the combo of Tianzhou-3 and Long March 7 Y4 rocket has rolled out to the launch pad in Wenchang and will take off at a suitable time. The Tianzhou-3 mission will be the second supply shipping mission to the Tianhe core module following the first by the Tianzhou-2 on May 29.
Following the Tianzhou-3 mission, the Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft is expected to send another crew of three taikonauts to China’s space station complex, which may include the first female taikonaut in the space station building stage. They will live and work in orbit for an even longer stay of six months.