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Shenzhou XV will land in matter of hours

By Zhao Lei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-06-03 21:41

The Shenzhou XV mission crew will soon return to Earth in a matter of hours after a six-month mission that witnessed the completion of the Tiangong space station.

The Shenzhou XV spacecraft, carrying the three astronauts — mission commander Major General Fei Junlong, Senior Colonel Deng Qingming and Senior Colonel Zhang Lu, left the Tiangong space station at 9:29 pm Saturday, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Before setting out on their return trip, Fei's team configured the Tiangong, transmitted science data back to Earth, and sorted and transferred materials between the station and their spaceship. They handed over the massive station to the Shenzhou XVI crew that arrived on Tuesday.

As the fourth group to go to the Chinese station, Fei and his teamates were launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on Nov 29 and entered the space station the next day to meet their Shenzhou XIV peers. The two crews' meeting marked the first time six Chinese people were traveling in outer space at the same time and also the first in-orbit handover between two Chinese crews.

By Saturday night, they have stayed in orbit for 186 days.

During their stay, the Tiangong was announced to be completed at the end of 2022.

The Shenzhou XV team carried out four spacewalks, becoming the most experienced Chinese crew in terms of extravehicular activity. They also conducted dozens of science experiments and technology tests and obtained a great deal of data, the manned space agency said.

Their successors, the Shenzhou XVI crew — mission commander Major General Jing Haipeng, Colonel Zhu Yangzhu and Professor Gui Haichao, who is the first Chinese civilian in space — will run the Tiangong, one of the largest pieces of infrastructure ever deployed in Earth's orbit, for five months and are scheduled to return in November.

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