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Chinese astronauts set record with six months in space

Recovery crews attend the Shenzhou-13 capsule shortly after landing. Credit: CMSA/Li Yunxi

Edinburgh, 19 April 2022. – A Shenzhou spacecraft landed safely in northern China carrying three taikonauts, about 9 hours after departing from the Tianhe core module of the Tiangong space station. The “rapid return” procedure employed by the Chinese for the first time, cut the number of orbits from 11 down to five.

Although six-month missions are normal in case of the ISS, China is not part of that program. The crew of the Shenzhou-13 mission therefore set a national record with 183 days in space. The longest Chinese crewed mission before this was Shenzhou-12, where three astronauts spent 92 days in low Earth orbit.

During the Shenzhou-13 mission Wang Yaping became the first woman to live aboard the station. She was also the first Chinese woman to conduct a spacewalk. Wang, Ye Guangfu and Zhai Zhigang conducted over 20 different science experiments and delivered two educational lectures from Tiangong.

Shenzhou-13 was the second crewed mission to Tianhe and part of the planned 11 missions required to finish the space station. Currently, the Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft is being prepared for launch next month to deliver supplies and propellant to Tianhe. This will be followed by the Shenzhou-14 crewed mission, scheduled for June. Two new modules, Wentian and Mengtian, are also expected to launch in Q3 2022.

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