The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced on April 16 that the Shenzhou-13 return capsule had completed touchdown at the Dongfeng landing site in the Gobi Desert, northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, marking the full success of the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceflight mission.
The Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft was launched from the country’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 16, 2021, then docked with Tianhe core module. Three astronauts entered the core module and stayed for six months, setting a new record for Chinese astronauts’ longest stay in orbit.
During their time aboard, the astronauts executed two successful spacewalks and carried out a range of scientific experiments and technological tests, such as a manual teleoperation rendezvous and docking, robotic arm assisted cabin transposition, and more. They verified key technologies concerning astronauts’ long-term stay support, regenerative life support, space material replenishment, extravehicular activities and operations and in-orbit maintenance. Taking advantage of the mission gaps, the trio also conducted two space lectures for students on Earth and a series of unique popular science education and cultural communication activities.
The complete success of the Shenzhou-13 manned mission marks the completion of the key technology verification stage of the China Space Station, which will soon be followed by the construction stage.
Hao Chun, head of the CMSA, said that the construction of the China Space Station is divided into two stages – the key technology verification stage and the construction stage – with six missions planned respectively. In July and October of this year, China will launch two laboratory modules, Wentian and Mengtian. After that, the three modules of the space station will form a “T” configuration and complete in-orbit construction of the China Space Station.
In addition, the Shenzhou-14 manned spacecraft will be launched in June this year, while the Shenzhou-15 manned spacecraft will be launched after the in-orbit construction of the China Space Station is completed.