Chinese astronauts returned from space station in ripped parachute with sizeable hole

Return capsule carrying three astronauts touched down in the Gobi Desert on Tuesday

Vishwam Sankaran
Friday 03 November 2023 11:45 GMT

Related video: A look at Shenzhou-16 astronauts’ return in 60 seconds

Astronauts from China’s Tiangong space station returned to Earth this week despite an apparent hole in the parachute of their spacecraft’s landing module.

On Tuesday, three astronauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao emerged from the return capsule of the Shenzhou 16 spacecraft near the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China.

In footage aired by China Central Television (CCTV) of the capsule’s descent, a patch of blue sky can be seen through its parachute, hinting it had a sizable hole, which seems to have not affected the landing operations.

The return capsule touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia on Tuesday.

Authorities, however, have not officially announced the incident during Shenzhou 16’s descent.

Experts point out that even if the parachute had failed, the spacecraft had a backup chute that could have helped with landing automatically if the capsule were descending too fast.

There would be many more trips Chinese astronauts will make to and from China’s newly built space station.

As the old crew landed on Tuesday, a new team of astronauts arrived at the Tiangong station last week.

They are expected to conduct medical and scientific experiments and maintain equipment.

China is forging ahead with many space missions planned for the decade, including one to put astronauts on the moon before 2030.

Nasa administrator Bill Nelson has also pointed out that the US and China are engaged in a new-age space race.

So far, the country has also brought samples back from the lunar surface and landed a rover on the Moon’s less explored far side.

China has also built its own space station following its exclusion from the International Space Station amid US concerns that the Chinese military exerts control over the Asian country’s space program.

The US is also pursuing plans to put its astronauts back on the Moon by the end of 2025 as part of Nasa’s Artemis missions.

In January, Mr Nelson said the US was in a new space race with China.

“It is a fact, we’re in a space race,” Mr Nelson told Politico, adding that geopolitical tensions between the two giants could extend to the moon.

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