Chinese astronauts land on Earth after China’s longest manned space mission

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Saturday after 183 days in space, state television reported, completing the country’s longest manned space mission to date.

The astronauts landed nine hours after leaving a main unit of China’s first space station.

While in orbit, Shenzhou-13 mission astronauts took over manual control of a living quarters module in Tianhe for what state media called a “docking experiment” with the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft.

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After their October launch, astronauts Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu and crew member Wang Yaping spent 183 days in space, completing the fifth of 11 missions required to finish the space station by the end of the year.

Shenzhou-13 was the second of four manned missions planned to complete construction of the space station, which began last April. Shenzhou 12 returned to Earth in September.

China’s next two missions will be the Tianzhou-4, a cargo spacecraft, and the three-man Shenzhou-14 mission, state media quoted Shao Limin, deputy director of technology for the Manned Spaceship System, as saying.

Banned from participating in the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit, China has spent the past decade developing technologies to build its own space station, the only one in the world other than the International Space Station.

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China, which aims to become a space power by 2030, has launched probes to explore Mars and became the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

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Additional reporting by Liangping Zhao in Beijing and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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