September 17 (WNN) — After spending three months in orbit aboard Beijing’s space station, three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after completing the country’s longest manned space mission in history.
The trio landed in China’s Gobi Desert on their Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and met the crew in military helicopters and off-road vehicles.
The astronauts – Ni Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – left Tiangong Station early Thursday. Officials said the crew was in space for 90 days, three times longer than any previous Chinese manned mission.
All three were released from the spacecraft and spent some time sitting on nearby chairs to get used to Earth’s gravity.
After the landing, Ni said he hoped more Chinese astronauts would follow their achievements, setting new records and “reaching new heights.”
The astronauts departed Earth on June 17 and arrived at the space station’s Tianhe module. Tianhe, which is Chinese for “heaven’s goodwill,” was sent into space on a Long March 5-B rocket in April.
During their time in low Earth orbit, the astronauts conducted two spacewalks to help build the 54-foot-tall module and deployed a mechanical arm to the station. He also participated in a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Beijing plans to launch two more modules into space to complete the space station. Tiangong is Chinese for “heavenly palace”. China will need a total of 11 successful launches, four manned missions and four cargo vessel flights to complete the station by next year.
Officials expect to launch the Tianzhou-3 cargo craft later this month and the Shenzhou-13 in October for a six-month-long crew mission.