China astro­nauts re­turn from month-long space sta­tion stay

Both in good health

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

BEI­JING: Two Chi­nese astro­nauts re­turned Fri­day from a month long stay aboard the coun­try’s space sta­tion, China’s sixth and long­est crewed mis­sion and a sign of the grow­ing am­bi­tions of its rapidly ad­vanc­ing space pro­gram.

Vet­eran mis­sion com­man­der Jing Haipeng and first-time space trav­eler Chen Dong were re­ported in good health af­ter their Shen­zhou 11 re­turn ve­hi­cle landed on the frozen steppes of In­ner Mon­go­lia.

They spent 30 days aboard the Tian­gong 2 sta­tion con­duct­ing experiments and test­ing equip­ment in prepa­ra­tion for the launch­ing of the sta­tion’s core mod­ule in 2018. A fully func­tion­ing, per­ma­nently crewed space sta­tion is on course to be­gin op­er­a­tions six years from now and is slated to run for at least a decade.

Suc­cess of the mis­sion

The suc­cess of the mis­sion “in­di­cates that our manned space pro­gram has achieved ma­jor new progress and is the lat­est achieve­ment in build­ing a coun­try of in­no­va­tion and a world power of science and tech­nol­ogy,” the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, the Cabi­net and the party com­mis­sion con­trol­ling the mil­i­tary said in a con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage. “It is the new­est achieve­ment of Chi­nese peo­ple in climb­ing the peak of the world,” said the let­ter, read out by Vice Premier Zhao Gaoli at the space flight con­trol cen­ter in Bei­jing.

Since first launch­ing a hu­man into space 13 years ago, China has launched two space sta­tions, staged a space­walk, landed a rover on the moon and is now con­sid­er­ing send­ing a crewed lu­nar mis­sion.

The Tian­gong, or “Heav­enly Palace,” space sta­tions are con­sid­ered step­ping stones to a mis­sion to send a rover to Mars by the end of the decade. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the dis­used ex­per­i­men­tal Tian­gong 1 sta­tion have been cut and it is ex­pected to burn up on en­ter­ing the at­mos­phere next year.

China was ex­cluded from the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion mainly due to U.S. leg­is­la­tion bar­ring such co­op­er­a­tion and con­cerns over the Chi­nese space pro­gram’s strongly mil­i­tary char­ac­ter.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials are now look­ing to in­ter­na­tion­al­ize their own pro­gram by of­fer­ing to help fi­nance other coun­tries’ mis­sions to Tian­gong 2, which, at 60 tons when com­pleted, would still be con­sid­er­ably smaller than the 420-ton ISS. The space sta­tion was launched on Sept. 15 and is or­bit­ing 393 kilo­me­ters above Earth.

In a re­cent edi­to­rial, state news­pa­per China Daily con­grat­u­lated the coun­try on hav­ing “never given up on its re­solve to catch up with the world’s lead­ers in science and tech­nol­ogy, as its lead­er­ship un­der­stands the im­por­tance of science and tech­nol­ogy for a na­tion’s de­vel­op­ment.” “That ex­plains why China has achieved such a lot in the de­vel­op­ment of its space tech­nol­ogy in the past two decades and is striv­ing to make new break­throughs,” the pa­per said.

CHINA: In this photo re­leased by Xin­hua News Agency, ground crew check on the re-en­try cap­sule of Shen­zhou 11 space­craft af­ter it landed in north China’s In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion on Fri­day.—AP

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