Sat, Nov 19, 2016 - Page 5 News List

China’s Shenzhou 11 space capsule returns to Earth

Reuters, BEIJING

China’s Shenzhou 11 space capsule yesterday landed safely in the northern region of Inner Mongolia with two astronauts aboard, state media said, completing the country’s longest crewed space mission to date.

China Central Television (CCTV) showed images of the craft — whose name translates as “Divine Vessel” — on the ground flanked by Chinese flags and support teams.

State news agency Xinhua said the capsule had touched down “successfully” just after 2pm.

The two astronauts, Jing Haipeng (景海鵬) and Chen Dong (陳冬), spent 30 days aboard the Tiangong 2, or “Heavenly Palace 2,” space laboratory, which China is using to carry out experiments ahead of a longer-range plan to have a permanent crewed space station around 2022.

They did not immediately emerge from the capsule as CCTV said they were undergoing medical examination, but space mission chief commander Zhang Youxia said in a televised speech that they were in good condition.

Tiangong 2 is to remain in its orbit and next docks with Tianzhou 1, China’s first cargo spacecraft, which is set to be launched in April next year, according to state media.

In a crewed space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1.

Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

China insists its space program is for peaceful purposes.

The US Department of Defense has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it is pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations using space-based assets in a crisis.

China has been working to develop its space program for military, commercial and scientific purposes, but is still playing catch-up to established space powers the US and Russia.

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