China Completes Longest Space Mission Yet

China completed its longest crewed space mission so far with the safe landing of the Shenzhou 11 space capsule on the northern region of Mongolia, according to state media. Two astronauts, Jing Haipeng  and Chen Dong, emerged from the craft after spending 30 days aboard the Tiangong 2, or “Heavenly Palace 2,” space laboratory. China is using the lab to pursue experiments ahead of a longer-range plan to have a permanent crewed space station around 2022.

But, the astronauts didn’t immediately come out of the capsule upon landing as they were undergoing medical examinations, according to CCTV. During a televised speech, however, Chief commander Zhang Youxia said the crew was in good condition.

Tiangong 2 will remain in orbit before docking with Tianzhou 1, China’s first cargo spacecraft set to be launched next April, according to state media. In a crewed space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1.

China says it’s focusing its space ambitions on peaceful outcomes. However, it has also been developing its space program for military implications in addition to scientific and commercial purposes. The United States Department of Defense says China’s space-exploration goals are aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets in a crisis.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.