Chinese astronauts return from 'successful' space station mission

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Three Chinese astronauts returned safely to Earth on Tuesday after five months in orbit at the country's space station, state media CCTV reported.

The capsule carrying Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao landed at the Dongfeng space center at 8:11 a.m. (0011 GMT), according to state television.

Their images show the capsule parachuting into the Gobi Desert, raising a cloud of orange dust as it hits the ground.

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"Medical supervision staff at the scene confirmed that the astronauts... are in good health," CCTV said. "The Shenzhou-16 manned flight mission was a complete success," she added.

Jing, Zhu and Gui embarked at the end of May for the Tiangong space mission, where they spent 154 days.

They were replaced last week by the crew of the Shenzhou-17 mission, which will conduct "various payload and space science tests and experiments in orbit," according to the country's space agency.

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They must also carry out maintenance work to repair minor damage caused by space debris.

Since Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago, China has accelerated plans to become a major space power.

The world's second-largest economy has pumped billions of dollars into its military-controlled space program to try to catch up with the United States and Russia.

Within this strategy, Beijing plans to send a manned mission to the Moon in 2030 and wants to build a base on the surface of the Earth's satellite.

With information from AFP.


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