China’s Longest Manned Space Mission A Success: Astronauts Come Back Home Safely
China has once again proven that its space agency is not just trailing behind others in space exploration. Its longest manned space mission has been dubbed as a major success as two astronauts came home safely after a month-long stint aboard the Tiangong 2 space station.
Zhang Gaoli, vice premiere and member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said that the completion of the Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 mission marked a major breakthrough for China's ESA, Space Daily reports.
The two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, landed via the Shenzhou 11 space capsule in the northern region of Inner Mongolia on Nov. 18, ending a month-long mission on the space laboratory. Also dubbed as the Heavenly Palace 2, the space station is where the astronauts carried out experiments ahead of a longer-range plant to install a permanent manned space station by 2022.
"The Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 flight duties were a complete success," mission commander Zhang Youxia told Reuters. Meanwhile, Tiangong 2 will remain in its orbit and is expected to dock with Tianzhou 1, the country's first cargo spacecraft to be launched in April 2017.
The mission aimed to test out the station's equipment and mechanisms. However, they conducted several experiments on the space laboratory. One of which is to bring germinated seeds of thale cress, a flowering plant used in space-based research. Farming experiments in outer space could shed light on the behavior of plants and further expand the understanding on botanical research.
"We want to study the growth rhythm and the flowering of plants in micro-gravity conditions," Zheng Huiqiong, chief scientist in charge of plant research on Tiangong-2 and a researcher with the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told Xinhua News.