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China's Shenzhou-16 astronauts return safely

Xinhua | October 31, 2023


The return capsule of the Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship touches down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Oct. 31, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Zhipeng)

The Shenzhou-16 crew consisting of three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth safely on Tuesday, after completing a five-month space station mission.

Shenzhou-16's return capsule, carrying astronauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 8:11 a.m. (Beijing Time), and the crew had all left the return capsule by 9:10 a.m., according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The Shenzhou-16 astronauts are in good health and the Shenzhou-16 manned mission proved a success, while also marking that all three kinds of astronauts currently available in China, namely spacecraft pilot, spaceflight engineer and payload expert, had completed their flight assessments and practical tests, the CMSA said.

This mission has laid a good foundation for the subsequent development and construction of the crewed spaceflight program and large-scale space science experiments, the CMSA added.

"I am very excited at this moment as we have finally come back home and returned to our motherland," said Jing, the mission commander and the first Chinese astronaut to complete four space missions, which amounted to over 200 days.

"During our mission, the crew lived a happy life and worked efficiently. All operations were carried out without any mistakes," said Jing while sitting on a chair in front of the capsule.

Zhu, the country's first spaceflight engineer in space, said they coordinated well in successfully completing various tasks and witnessed the glorious space station Tiangong, the country's national space laboratory, during the five-month mission. "China's space station is always worth looking forward to," Zhu added.

"I will stick to my original aspiration and mission as an astronaut and a teacher with practical actions, and look forward to traveling to the country's space station again to explore more scientific mysteries," said Gui, China's first civilian astronaut and first payload expert in space.

The return capsule separated from Shenzhou-16's orbiting capsule at 7:21 a.m. The brake engine then ignited and the return capsule separated from the propulsion capsule.

The ground search team arrived at the landing site soon after the return capsule landed.

China launched the manned spaceship Shenzhou-16 on May 30, 2023. It was the first crewed mission of the application and development stage of China's space station.

Its crew, which remained in orbit for 154 days, carried out a total of 70 space experiments, performed a space walk, delivered a lecture from the space station, and on several occasions assisted with the movement of cargo.