Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 3 months in space

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Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday, China’s longest manned space mission to date.

The return capsule of the Shenzhou 12 ship was slowed on its descent by a large parachute and finally touched down the Gobi Desert, northern China, as shown live on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo blasted off from Earth on June 17 and spent three space, a record for Chinese space travellers.

CCTV showed images of recovery teams using all-terrain vehicles and helicopters rushing to the landing site to help the astronauts out of the capsule.

“I want to tell my parents that I am back. good health and good spirits, everything is great! said Tang Hongbo to the TV cameras as he and his colleagues recovered on chairs in front of the capsule.

“With China’s growing strength and the rising level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe that there will be Chinese astronauts making breakthroughs and setting new records the future,’’ said mission commander Nie Haisheng.

The astronauts spent most of their trip the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station, which is still construction and so far only consists of the Tianhe (Heavenly Harmony) core module.

The space station was due to be completed by 2022, and China planned to send two heavy modules each weighing a good 20 tonnes into space by then.

A cargo flight with material is planned to fly out next week, and a new crew is due to fly to the space station in October.

If the International Space Station (ISS) is decommissioned as planned in the next few years, China is likely to be the only country still operating a permanent outpost in space.

Chinese astronauts were not allowed to take part in ISS missions at U.S. insistence.

China has been pushing ahead with its ambitious space programme. After several successful flights to the moon, the People’s Republic delivered the Zhurong rover to Mars in mid-May, becoming the first nation to succeed in doing so on its maiden flight to the Red Planet.

In the medium term, China has also announced plans to send humans to the moon.