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Three astronauts have completed a three-month mission in Earth’s orbit in the context of the establishment of the Chinese space station, according to what the New China News Agency announced.
The three astronauts set off in June on the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft. Their ninety-day mission is the longest mission conducted by Chinese astronauts in Earth’s orbit, according to the official news agency, which did not reveal the date of their return.
And the New China Agency reported that the vehicle separated from the Tiangong station, which it was docked with three months ago, at 8:56 Beijing time (0.56 GMT).
This mission comes in a tense atmosphere between China and the West, and its success is of great importance to Beijing, which celebrated on July 1, the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.
China had decided to establish its own manned space base after the United States refused to allow it to participate in the International Space Station.
And the International Space Station, which brings together the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan, will be withdrawn from service in 2024, even if the US Space Agency (NASA) has not ruled out extending its life beyond 2028.
When completed, Tiangong will have a mass of about 90 tons and is expected to operate for at least ten years, according to the Chinese space agency.
It would be much smaller than the International Space Station and similar to the Soviet Mir space station, which was launched in 1986 and decommissioned in 2001.
It is planned to send 11 more missions over the next year and a half to complete the construction of the Tiangong station in orbit, which includes the installation of solar panels and two laboratory units.
China has invested billions of dollars over decades to catch up with established space powers such as the United States and Russia.
So far, it has managed to send humans into space and a probe to the moon, and a few months ago a robot belonging to it landed on Mars, in a very important space achievement.
A long-term human presence in space would be an important leap in China’s space programme.
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