The capsule of the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft lands in China's Inner Mongolia on Saturday. AFP
Gulf Today Report
The return to Earth of three astronauts on Saturday after six months at China's new space station marks a landmark step in the country's space ambitions, ending its longest crewed mission ever.
The Shenzhou 13 space capsule landed in the Gobi desert in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, shown live on state TV.
During the mission, astronaut Wang Yaping carried out the first spacewalk by a Chinese woman. Wang and crewmates Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu beamed back physics lessons for high school students.
China launched its first astronaut into space in 2003 and landed robot rovers on the moon in 2013 and on Mars last year. Officials have discussed a possible crewed mission to the moon.
Three Chinese astronauts wave after entering the space station core module Tianhe. File/AP
The world's second-largest economy has put billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of eventually sending humans to the Moon.
China has come a long way in catching up with the United States and Russia, whose astronauts and cosmonauts have decades of experience in space exploration.
Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China's "space dream" have been put into overdrive.
This photo shows the astronauts inside the return capsule of the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft before landing. AFP
Beijing is looking to finally catch up with the United States and Russia after years of belatedly matching their milestones.
Besides a space station, China is also planning to build a base on the Moon, and the country's National Space Administration said it aims to launch a crewed lunar mission by 2029.
But lunar work was dealt a setback in 2017 when the Long March-5 Y2, a powerful heavy-lift rocket, failed to launch on a mission to send communication satellites into orbit.
That forced the postponement of the Chang'e-5 launch, originally scheduled to collect Moon samples in the second half of 2017.
Astronauts Ye Guangfu (left), Wang Yaping and Zhai Zhigang, wave at a departure ceremony. AFP
Another robot, the Chang'e-4, landed on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 — a historic first.
This was followed by one that landed on the near side of the Moon last year, raising a Chinese flag on the lunar surface.
The unmanned spacecraft returned to Earth in December with rocks and soil — the first lunar samples collected in four decades.
And in February 2021, the first images of Mars were sent back by the five-tonne Tianwen-1, which then landed a rover on the Martian surface in May that has since started to explore the surface of the Red Planet.
The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule and a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at about 9pm (0200 GMT Thursday).
The European Space Agency announced on Friday that they would be hiring differently-abled astronauts as well a few other para-astronauts in their agency.
The six-month mission, commanded by Fei Junlong and crewed by Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, will be the last "in the construction phase of China’s space station,” agency official Ji Qiming told reporters Monday.
"We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” SpaceX's Mission Control radioed moments after splashdown. "For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer programme, you've earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”
"We'll take those miles,” said spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins. "Are they transferrable?” SpaceX replied that the astronauts would have to check with the company's
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Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed and Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised the critical need for a political solution to achieve a comprehensive and just peace, and ensure the region's security and stability.
The operation deployed four C-130 planes including one belonging to the French air force, army spokesperson Hiyari said. Aid was dropped to 11 sites along the Gaza coast from its northern edge to the south for civilians to collect..
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