June 29, 2012
Chinese Astronauts Land Safely In Mongolia
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
After a landmark thirteen-day mission in space aboard the Tiangong-1 experimental space lab, three Chinese astronauts, including the country´s first Chinese female astronaut, parachuted safely back to Earth landing in a grassy field in Inner Mongolia Friday morning.
The trio´s Shenzhou-9 space capsule touched down at roughly 10:00 a.m. local time on Friday 29 June, 2012. The capsule somersaulted once after touching down, and shortly after coming to rest, the Chinese crew emerged from the cramped capsule smiling and seemingly in good health.
“We have successfully accomplished [our] mission for China and have now returned to home,” said crew leader Jing Haipeng, who has been on three of the country´s four manned space missions. “Thanks to our country, thanks to the care and love from people of all ethnic groups of the country. Thanks,” he added.
Chinese space officials cheered on the landing, a successful completion of the country´s first manned mission to the experimental space lab, penning a significant chapter in the country´s ambitious space race novel.
“Tiangong 1, our home in space, was comfortable and pleasant. We´re very proud of our nation,” 33-year-old Liu Yang, the country´s first female astronaut, told national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) after landing.
Also part of the space mission were 45-year-old mission captain Jing Haipeng and 43-year-old flight engineer Liu Wang.
Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters shortly after the crew emerged from their charred space capsule that the mission marked “absolutely important progress” for the country´s space program.
Reading a statement representing all top leaders, he continued: “This is... another outstanding contribution by the Chinese nation to human exploration and the use of outer space“¦ It has profound significance in enhancing China´s comprehensive power and inspiring the national spirit.”
The 13-day mission included several experiments, such as remote and piloted dockings between the capsule and space module and extensive medical monitoring of the astronauts to aid in preparations for a permanently manned space station, which China plans to have in space by decade´s end.
Piloted dockings need to be very precise or it could produce disastrous results. A maneuver that has been completed numerous times by Americans and Russians since the 1960s, requires two vessels orbiting the Earth at thousands of miles per hour to come together very gently without destroying each other.
The Chinese astronauts have rehearsed the procedure more than 1,500 times in simulations, and it seems that practice paid off as the crew carried out several successful piloted docking experiments during the latest mission.
China´s next goals include another manned mission to Tiangong-1 scheduled for later this year, but could be delayed depending on evaluations of the latest Shenzhou-9 mission and the continuous condition of the orbiting space lab. China has been methodical in the planning of its manned missions, and has also been extremely cautious, as can be noticed by the three-plus years since the country´s last manned mission -- perhaps a testament to its cautious and methodical take on manned missions is the fact that all four of China´s manned missions have been virtually problem-free.
According to governmental figures, China has spent more than $6 billion over the past two decades on efforts to build a permanent manned space station that could rival that of the International Space Station (a joint program of the US, Europe, Canada, Russia and Japan).
China sees its space program as a symbol of its rising global stature, its growing technical expertise, and its successes in bringing a once poverty-stricken nation to an economical powerhouse.
And the latest mission helped cement China´s status in these critical areas, said French space expert Isabelle Sourbes-Verger.
“By demonstrating that they master (these procedures), China fully enters the club of big powers in human occupation (of space),” Sourbes-Verger, from France´s National Centre for Scientific Research, told AFP´s Boris Cambreleng.
“The political objectives for the space program -- to be able to demonstrate indisputable technological and scientific competence -- have been reached,” she added.