China’s Shenzhou-16 manned spacecraft has successfully returned to Earth after a historic 154-day mission. The craft landed at the Dongfeng Landing Site, with the on-site medical team confirming the three taikonauts onboard, led by mission commander Jing Haipeng, in good health. This marks the first manned spaceflight mission since China’s Tiangong Space Station entered the application and development stage.
The Shenzhou-16 crew exited the capsule at 9:10 am. Jing Haipeng, who has executed four space journeys, described the 154-day time in space as “happy and highly efficient.” The mission was a success, with zero errors and mistakes, thanks to the team’s collective efforts. China’s first-ever spaceflight engineer, Zhu Yangzhu, aspired to join future missions.
China’s first civilian taikonaut, Gui Haichao, has confirmed that all experiments and research projects in space went well during the Shenzhou-16 mission. The mission is significant as it lays a solid foundation for future development of the program and large-scale space science experiments. The spacecraft’s return propulsion engine was ignited, and the return capsule separated from the propulsion module, landing successfully. The search and rescue team promptly identified the landing site and arrived on scene. The Shenzhou-16 crew returned 19 scientific experiments, including liver cells, proteins, nucleic acids, and rice and thale cress seeds, weighing around 25 kilograms.
The life science experimental samples were transported to Beijing and delivered to the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Shenzhou-16’s journey back to Earth used a rapid return maneuver similar to those used since the Shenzhou-13 mission, taking around seven and a half hours, enhancing return efficiency and making it more comfortable for taikonauts. The Shenzhou-16 was successfully launched into space on May 30th.
Three taikonauts have successfully completed a manned mission in China’s space station’s application and development stage, including one spacewalk and China’s fourth Tiangong Space Lecture Session. They also assisted in multiple cargo egress missions, laying the groundwork for future missions. The taikonaut crew and ground research staff collaborated on numerous space science experiments in areas such as ergonomics, space medicine, life ecology, biotechnology, material science, fluid physics, and space technology.
This mission marked a significant step in China’s manned space program’s transition from construction to application and investment to returns. Before the Shenzhou-16 mission, the crew conducted a handover with the new Shenzhou-17 crew, sharing their work experience and completing supply transfers and samples. After separation, the Shenzhou-16 crew took a panoramic shot of the space station with Earth in the background. The three taikonauts arrived in Beijing and will undergo a routine quarantine and recovery period.