Three Chinese astronauts set to return home tomorrow
Beijing: China`s first woman astronaut and two of her colleagues, who successfully accomplished the country`s first-ever manual space docking, would return home tomorrow after remaining in the space for two weeks.
The three astronauts will return to Earth around 10 am (Beijing Time) tomorrow in Shenzhou-9 (Divine Grace) manned spacecraft, a spokesperson for China`s manned space programme announced here Thursday.
The return capsule is due to land in Inner Mongolia`s Siziwang Banner (county).
The landing zone has been used for all previous Shenzhou space missions.
A manual operation successfully separated the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace) lab module today, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre.
It was the first time for China`s spacecraft and target module to be manually disjoined after the maiden manual docking on June 24 of the two experimental modules being tested for China`s plans to build a space station of its own by 2020.
The astronauts returned to Shenzhou-9 from the Tiangong-1 in order to prepare for the manual separation attempt.
Liu Wang, one of the astronauts, conducted the operation to separate Shenzhou-9 and the orbiting Tiangong-1.
He will continue to manually operate and direct the spacecraft to a safe distance from the lab module.
During their stay in the Tiangong-1, all experiments and tests were conducted as scheduled, which produced valuable data, Chen Shanguang, chief commander of the mission`s astronaut system said.
"These data will help us improve technologies for astronauts` future, long-term stays in a space station," official media here quoted him as saying today.
All data and samples have been moved to the return capsule of the spacecraft and the lab module has been restored to its pre-docking status, control centre said.
The Tiangong-1 will return to its previous orbit and wait for another spacecraft.
The lab module is designed to operate for two years and host six docking procedures.
It has been operating for 272 days and has undergone four docking procedures with Shenzhou-8 and Shenzhou-9 spaceships, to date.
"Based on current conditions, the service of the Tiangong-1 can be extended," He Yu, chief commander of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft said.
"It has consumed less than one-fourth of its fuel and no back-up systems have been used. If the systems were improved and its operation was under careful monitoring and control, the service could be much longer.
"If Tiangong-1 was in perfect shape, it could work side by side with the Tiangong-2, which will be launched in the future," he said.
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