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Chinese astronauts return after 90-day mission to space station

BEIJING, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Three Chinese astronauts returned to earth on Friday after a 90-day visit to an unfinished space station in the country's first crewed mission since 2016.

In a small return capsule, the three men - Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo - landed safely in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in the north of China at 1:34 p.m. (0534 GMT), state media reported.

The Shenzhou-12 mission was the first of four crewed missions planned for 2021-2022 as China assembles its first permanent space station. The process requires 11 missions, including the launches of the station's three modules.

Construction kicked off in April with the launch of the Tianhe module, the future living quarters of the space station. Slightly larger than a city bus, Tianhe was where Nie, Liu and Tang have stayed since mid-June, marking China's longest spaceflight mission.

While in orbit, the astronauts conducted spacewalks, validated Tianhe's life-support system, tested the module's robotic arm, and sorted supplies for upcoming crewed missions.

A giant screen shows Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng (C), Liu Boming (R), and Tang Hongbo of the Shenzhou-12 mission saluting inside the Tianhe core module of China's space station, at a shopping mall in Beijing, China June 18, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter


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