China’s Shenzhou 15 astronauts returned to Earth with a smooth and safe weekend landing after completing a six-month mission to the country’s space station.
Astronauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu touched down in their Shenzhou 15 spacecraft return capsule at the Dongfeng landing site at 6:33 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 3, (2233 GMT; or 6:33 a.m. on June 4 Beijing Time), according to the China Manned Space Agency.
“We are feeling good,” mission commander Fei said in a brief interview right after exiting the return capsule.
The mission was Deng Qingming’s first flight to space, having been selected in China’s first batch of astronauts back in 1997. That’s a nearly 26-year wait for his first trip to space.
“Now, I really, really miss my family and my hometown. My experience as an astronaut over the past 25 years makes me believe more firmly in the power of dreams and persistence,” Deng told Chinese state media.
The Shenzhou 15 crew embarked on four extravehicular activities, or spacewalks, during their time in space, setting a national record. The trio also carried out a range of science experiments and outreach activities.
Tests included using a two-photon microscope to image an astronaut’s skin, testing a free-piston Stirling thermoelectric converter, as well as various experiments using a combustion chamber. Two of Tiangong’s three modules are science modules which contain a number of experiment racks.
Meanwhile, in orbit, the new Shenzhou 16 astronauts are expected to remain aboard Tiangong until this upcoming November, when they will be relieved by the Shenzhou 17 crew. China aims to keep Tiangong operational and permanently occupied for at least a decade.