Chinese astronauts return after 6 months in space

After 183 days in space, Chinese state television reported that three astronauts returned to earth after completing China’s longest ever crewed space mission.

The Shenzhou-13 mission astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, Ye Guangfu and female crew member Wang Yaping, landed nine hours after leaving from China’s first space station.

While in orbit, astronauts took manual control in the Tianhe living quarters module.

Following their launch in October, the astronauts spent 183 days in space, completing the fifth of 11 missions needed to finish the construction of the space station by the end of the year.

Following Shenzhou-12, which returned to Earth in September, Shenzhou-13 was the second of four planned crewed missions to complete the construction of the space station, which began in April 2021.

Shao Limin, deputy technology manager of Manned Spaceship System, said, on state media, that China’s next two missions will be Tianzhou-4, a cargo spacecraft, and the three-person Shenzhou-14 mission.

Barred by the U.S. from participating in the orbiting International Space Station, China has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own space station, the only one in the world other than the ISS.

Aiming to become a space power by 2030, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon and has successfully launched probes to explore Mars.