In China was early afternoon when the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft landed in Inner Mongolia. The two crew members, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, were assisted by ground staff and are in good physical condition. Their mission began on October 17 so it was the longest Chinese manned mission.
The Shenzhou 11 mission had as its main goal a program of scientific and technological experiments and research to be performed aboard the Tiangong 2 space laboratory. The astronauts, or taikonauts if we want to use the Chinese term, brought back to Earth some experiments that will be analyzed in depth to evaluate their results.
The Chinese space agency didn’t provide many information on the activities aboard the Tiangong 2 laboratory. We know that the experiments concerned various fields, from the biological to the metallurgical. The duration of about a month of this mission allowed to also conduct experiments on plant growth in the microgravity existing in orbit.
The Tiangong 2 space laboratory will remain in orbit, where other experiments will continue under remote control. From what is known no more astronauts are scheduled to visit it in new missions while the next year a refueling tests is scheduled to be carried out with the Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft.
The first positive comments about the Shenzhou 11 mission have already arrived from Zhang Youxia, commander-in-chief of the Chinese space program. Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli congratulated for the success. Those are statements that are part of the protocol but from the information provided it seems that the mission was really successful.
For China it was an important mission because it’s a step forward in China’s space program. In particular, in the coming years their plans include starting building a national space station so the testing of the various technologies that will be used for that project was crucial.
According to the latest information, the first module of the Chinese space station will be launched in 2018 and the station will come into full service in 2022 with a life expectancy of at least 10 years. In the coming years, we can wait for the developments of the Chinese space program and the reactions of other nations.