Three Chinese astronauts are set to return to Earth tonight, and you can watch it live.
China’s Shenzhou 16 astronauts (or taikonauts, as Chinese spaceflyers are known) launched to the nation’s Tiangong space station aboard a Long March 2F rocket in May 2023. The crew consists of commander , spaceflight engineer and payload specialist Gui Haichao.
The trio has spent around five months aboard the orbital laboratory conducting a wide range of scientific experiments and public outreach. Zhu and Jing also executed an eight-hour spacewalk in June 2023 to perform maintenance on cameras aboard Tiangong. Tonight, all eyes are back on the crew as their Shenzhou spacecraft is set to touch down at the Dongfeng Landing Site in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Coverage of the capsule’s return starts at 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT). Watch it live here at Space.com courtesy of CCTV.
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Shenzhou-16’s replacement crew, Shenzhou-17, arrived at Tiangong just days ago. “Build a dream at the Tiangong space station and continue to work hard,” the new crew said in unison along with the three homebound astronauts they replaced during a welcome ceremony (translation by Chinese broadcaster CCTV, which livestreamed the event). “China’s space station is always worth looking forward to.”
The newly-arrived Shenzhou 17 crew consists of mission commander Tang Hongbo, aged 48, and former People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter pilots Tang Shengjie, aged 34, and Jiang Xinlin, aged 35. They are the seventh and youngest crew to visit Tiangong to date.
Tiangong is about one-fifth the size of the International Space Station, and was just completed in late 2022 with the addition of its third and final section, the Mengtian module.