The three Chinese astronauts of the Shenzhou-13 mission return to Earth

never there Mountain range hadn’t spent that much time in theSpace. The three astronauts of the Shenzhou-13 mission returned to Earth on Saturday after six months on the Chinese space station. This is another successful step for Beijing in its ambitious space program to catch up with the USA, Europe and Russia. After avoir déclenché son parachute rouge et blanc, la capsule de retour où avait pris place l’équipage – composed of one femme et de deux hommes – atterri peu avant 10h (02H00 GMT) dans le desert de Mongolie-intérieure (nord de 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 applauded the astronauts, who took turns saying they felt “good.” The crew was made up of three army pilots: Commander Zhai Zhigang (55), his colleague Wang Yaping (42) – who became the first Chinese to perform a spacewalk in November – and the youngest Ye Guangfu (41). , whose first space flight was.

Zhai Zhigang emerged from the capsule first, about 45 minutes after landing. The former fighter pilot, who conducted China’s first spacewalk in 2008, waved to cameras, smiling, as ground personnel hoisted him up and wrapped him in a blanket. “I am proud of our heroic country,” he told CCTV.

the heavenly palace

With 183 days in space, the crew breaks the previous national record for a stay in space, which was 92 days and was set in 2021 during the previous manned mission, Shenzhou-12. “The goal (with Shenzhou-13) was not in itself to set a record but to develop the skills necessary for a permanent occupation of the station,” China’s ultimate goal, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA.

Named in Chinese Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) 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 the former Russian-Soviet Mir station, his life must be about fifteen years.

Next step, a cargo ship

In six months, the crew completed two spacewalks, continued construction of the station, taught two online courses for Chinese schoolchildren, conducted experiments, and perfected their mastery of long-term 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, which specializes in the Chinese space program, told AFP.

Shenzhou-13 “was not a significant breakthrough,” but “the completion of SSC 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, declared on Thursday that he wanted to make it a “world-class” site. From Shenzhou-14, the CSS should be permanently busy.

The Moon around 2030

China has been pouring billions of euros into its space program for several decades, sending its first astronaut into space in 2003. Since then, it has achieved some remarkable feats, especially in recent years. In early 2019, it placed a machine on the far side of the Moon, a world first. In 2020, it brought back samples from the Moon and finished Beidou, its satellite navigation system, a competitor to the American GPS.

In 2021, a small robot landed on Mars and plans to send men to the Moon by 2030. China is excluded from the international Space Stationsince 2011, when the United States prohibited NASA from engaging with the Asian country.

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