According to a story from Space.com, three Chinese astronauts, also known as taikonauts, successfully returned to Earth yesterday after spending six months inside China’s unfinished Tiangong space station. China’s crewed mission to Tiangong is the country’s second and longest to date.
After a nine-hour journey from the space station’s main Tianhe module, the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft landed in the Inner Mongolia desert at 9:56 a.m. local time on Saturday morning. Last October, the crew launched from the Gobi desert’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and stayed aboard the space station for 183 days.
This is China’s longest mission. Wang Yaping, a taikonaut, made history by being the first Chinese woman to visit the Tianhe space station and the first Chinese woman to do a spacewalk. Wang was joined by Ye Guangfu, a crewmate, and Zhai Zhigang, the commander. The trio carried out a total of two spacewalks, performed numerous experiments around the station, and delivered two live lectures for students watching from Earth
Shenzhou 13 is one of China’s 11 scheduled missions to complete the Tiangong space station. In April 2021, China launched the Tianhe module and deployed three taikonauts to put the station functional. The Shenzhou 14 crew is scheduled to leave for the space station in June, according to Space.com. China intends to complete the station by the end of the year, which will involve the launch of two more modules.
While six months on a space station may appear to be a lengthy period, it is the standard timeframe for trips to the International Space Station, from which China is barred. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who just returned to Earth after 355 days in space, presently holds the record for the longest straight stay in orbit.