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With Shenzhou XIV's safe return, China writes a new chapter in space

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-06 07:25

Astronaut Chen Dong is out of the return capsule of the Shenzhou XIV manned spaceship at the Dongfeng landing site in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Dec 4, 2022. The return capsule of the Shenzhou XIV manned spaceship, carrying astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site safely on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]

The re-entry capsule of the manned Shenzhou XIV spaceship has successfully returned to the Dongfeng Landing Site in northwestern China's Gobi Desert.

Getting astronauts back is more difficult than sending them into space, something that stops many economies from joining the manned space mission club. While returning from space, a spaceship must first undock from the space station, slow down as it reenters the atmosphere, and then slow down further as it readies to land at the planned site. During the whole process, a returning capsule brings its speed down from 7.9 kilometers per second to a few hundred meters per second, and then to 7 meters per second, and at last to 1 meter per second. This is done to secure the lives of the astronauts inside the capsule.

Once the capsule lands, the responsibility shifts to the ground staff, who must first locate the capsule on a landing site spread across 13,000 square kilometers. According to reports, a mock drill was carried out on Dec 1, before the actual re-entry, with more than 10 teams involving five helicopters and over 60 automobiles taking part. Since 2003, 14 Chinese astronauts have gone to space and returned to Earth safely.

An equally important feat is that the three astronauts who are crewing the space station, will spend six months in space, beginning the space station's tryst with long-term residents.

At one point in the past week, six astronauts stayed at the station for five days, showing it is capable of supporting six astronauts rather than three. The three astronauts who will be staying there for longer are an example of a "permanent population" of China 400 kilometers above the ground. In the future, more astronauts could join the three, laying a more solid foundation for China's space experience.

With a space station composed of a core module, two lab modules, a manned spaceship and a cargo spaceship, the Chinese astronauts will continue pioneering space exploration and if some day people are able to reside permanently in space, while visiting Earth now and then, the contribution of Chinese astronauts should not be forgotten.


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