The China Command Space Engineering Office has announced that the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft will return Chinese astronauts to earth on September 17. The Chinese agency confirmed the spacecraft had successfully separated from the Chinese space station. Crewmembers completed all pre-separation work with assistance from ground control.
Among the items on the task list that had to be completed before returning to Earth was setting up modules for the station, transmitting data from experiments, and cleaning and transferring materials. Transmission controllers also confirmed that Shenzhou-12 successfully performed orbital and radial rendezvous tests with the space station.
Testing of the radial rendezvous technology was important for future crewed missions to the Chinese space station. Those tests were confirmed to have been completed at 1:38 PM Beijing time. The astronauts lived on the space station for 90 days, which is a record for a single mission for China. The space station orbits 250 miles above the earth.
China’s space station consists of five different modules, including an attached gym. It also has Wi-Fi for Internet connectivity and food for the astronauts. China reportedly has more than 120 dishes for astronauts to eat stored in the space station’s core module, along with a food heater for hot meals.
Astronauts also enjoyed fresh fruit during their stay. The gym has a treadmill, resistance bands, and an exercise bike. NASA has known for a long time that space travel can result in lost bone and muscle mass, so the ability to exercise is critical for long-duration missions. The astronauts arrived at the space station on June 17. China is currently planning eight additional missions to its space station, which is still under construction.