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Chinese astronauts to return home after longest-ever space mission

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-17 15:17
BEIJING -- The spacecraft Shenzhou XI, which is carrying taikonauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, separated from the orbiting Tiangong II space lab at 12:41 pm Thursday Beijing Time.

The separation marks the beginning of the journey home for the two men, after having lived and worked in Tiangong II for 30 days, the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts.

Before the separation, the astronauts extended their thanks and respect to their ground team and to everyone who had supported China's space program.

After the separation, Shenzhou XI will remain at a point near the space lab before they are given leave by the ground team to embark on their return journey.

Around one day later, the reentry module will descend from an orbit about 393 kilometers above Earth, a true test for Shenzhou XI's reentry system.

Tiangong II will remain in its orbit and remote experiments will continue until it docks with Tianzhou I, China's first cargo spacecraft, which is set to be launched in April 2017.
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