Shenzhou-9 Spacecraft Returns To Earth, Lands In Mongolia
By Srinivas Laxman | Top News
June 29, 2012
Opening a new chapter in world space history, China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its three crew members touched down safely in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region this morning.
AsianScientist (Jun. 29, 2012) – Opening a new chapter in world space history, China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its three crew members touched down safely on Friday at 10 a.m. (Beijing time) at Siziwang Banner in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Immediately after their arrival, they flashed a message to the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center: “We have returned and we feel good.”
During the final moments of the much-awaited return, a parachute was deployed to reduce the velocity of the re-entry module in which the crew members were flying.
No sooner than when Shenzhou-9 landed, the rescue team moved towards the touchdown zone. The three crew members – commander Jing Haipeng, flight engineer Liu Wang, and China’s first woman taikonaut, Liu Yang, came out of the capsule about 60 minutes after landing.
Live TV coverage showed that they were carried by the landing crew staff, each placed on a chair, and then taken to a nearby spot where all three taikonauts held hands and greeted the landing team.
The spokeswoman of China’s manned space program, Wu Ping, said at an earlier media interaction that 33-year-old Liu Yang had performed satisfactorily and was in a good mental and physical state.
“She had maintained a good team spirit and had obtained a lot of scientific data,” the spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
There was a brief welcoming ceremony at the landing area and each of them was given a bouquet of flowers. Ambulance helicopters had been placed on a standby to respond to any emergency.
Minutes after Shenzhou-9 landed, there was a formal declaration of the mission’s success at the Beijing Aerospace Command Center, and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao read a congratulatory letter. Senior government leaders went around shaking hands with the space program staff and greeting them.
Chief Commander of the mission’s astronaut system, Chen Shanguang, said that all experiments and tests had been completed as scheduled and had produced valuable data. According to him, the data will help to improve technologies for longer term stays at the space station.
The process of returning to earth was initiated on Thursday with Shenzhou-9 detaching from Tiangong-1. After the crew returned to Shenzhou-9, the air conditioning conduit which ran through the tunnel between Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-9 was retracted and stowed on board the Tiangong space lab.
Thereafter, the main computer at Tiangong-1 was powered down, the communication gear was deactivated, and the tunnel between Shenzhou-9 and Tiangong-1 was depressurized.
All data and samples were shifted to the return capsule and Tiangong-1 was restored into orbit to await the arrival of another spacecraft. The final sequence of the return was when the re entry module separated from the orbiting and propelling module.
The return of Shenzhou-9, which was launched on June 16, marks China’s most ambitious human spaceflight program as it successfully demonstrated the critical manual docking capability which hitherto was an exclusive preserve of the US and Russia. On June 24, Shenzhou-9 manually docked with Tiangong-1.
Chen further said that Tiangong-1 was designed to operate for two years and host six docking procedures. It has been operating for 272 days and had undergone four docking procedures with Shenzhou 8 and Shenzhou-9.
He Yu, chief commander of Shenzhou-9, said that Tiangong-1 had consumed less than one-fourth of its fuel and no back-up systems had been activated.
According to him, if the systems were improved and its operations were carefully monitored, it could remain in service much longer. He said that if Tiangong-1 was in perfect shape, it could operate side by side with Tiangong-2.
It is stated that China has earmarked a sum of three billion dollars for the country’s space rendezvous and docking missions. This budget is expected to cover the previous two missions, Shenzhou-7 and Shenzhou-8, the current Shenzhou-9, as well as Shenzhou-10 next year.
On September 21, 1992, the Chinese government implemented its manned spaceflight program and approved a three-step strategy. These were the:
Step 1:- Design and development of a manned spaceship.
Step 2:- Mastering rendezvous and docking technology, launching a space lab, and carrying out experiments with short term human presence.
Step 3:- Building a space station and carrying out experiments on a larger scale with long term human participation. Plans envisage the station becoming operational in 2020.
China’s first human space flight took place between October 15 and 16, 2003. The second one took place from October 12 to October 17, 2005, and third one took place from September 25 to September 28. This was an important mission because China demonstrated its capability to conduct an extra vehicular activity.
China also wants to be the first nation to revive the manned lunar mission program with the conclusion of NASA’s Apollo 17 in December 1972.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Xinhua News.
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