The crew of China’s Shenzhou-12 mission have returned safely back to Earth after their 90-day stay on the Tiangong space station.
Marking the end of China’s seventh crewed spaceflight, and their first crewed spaceflight since 2016, the crew of Shenzhou-12 returned safely back to Earth on September 17th. The mission is China’s most ambitious venture into space yet, with the crew having stayed in orbit for 90 days. While in orbit, Taikonauts Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming lived on the Tiangong space station and performed a variety of maintenance tasks, including two EVAs, and took some beautiful photos of Earth.
Tiangong is China’s first space station, and the only other space station in orbit besides the International Space Station. The Shenzhou-12 crew launched on June 17, just over a month after Tiangong’s first module Tianhe. Currently, the Tianhe core module is the only part of the space station in orbit, but just like the ISS, there are connection points for new modules in the coming years. The next two sections, the “Wentian Laboratory Cabin Module,” and the “Mengtian Laboratory Cabin Module” are both slated to launch in 2022.
The Shenzhou-12’s 90-day mission is definitely an impressive feat for a space agency that has only existed for 28 years, and CNSA is already getting the next crew ready for launch on October 3rd. Shenzhou-13, carrying an additional three Taikonauts will head once again for the Tiangong space station, this time for 180 days.