Chinese Astronauts Preparing for Return Tonight (EDT)-Update

Chinese Astronauts Preparing for Return Tonight (EDT)-Update

UPDATE:   Bob Christy’s calculation of a projected landing time of 02:03 GMT June 29 (10:03 pm tonight EDT) and the undocking time for Shenzhou-9 have been added.

China’s three-person Shenzhou-9 crew is preparing to return to Earth about 10:00 pm tonight, June 28, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which will be 10:00 am June 29 Beijing time (or 02:00 GMT June 29).  

The crew was launched on June 16 and this is the longest of China’s human space flight missions to date. 

China’s space program takes place at a measured pace.   The first Chinese astronaut, or taikonaut, was launched in 2003 on Shenzhou-5.   Two years later China launched Shenzhou-6 with two astronauts.  The third mission, Shenzhou-7, took place three years after that, in 2008, with a three-person crew and the first Chinese spacewalk.   The current mission is the fourth to carry a crew.   Five other Shenzhou spacecraft have been launched without crews as test flights (Shenzhou 1-4, Shenzhou-8).  Shenzhou-6 was the longest mission until now, lasting five days.

Shenzhou-9 already has undocked from the Tiangong-1 space station module.  Liu Wang conducted a manual undocking according to China’s Xinhua news service (in English).  One mission objective was to demonstrate manual docking and undocking as a test should automated systems fail.  The crew was launched on June 16 and docked with Tiangong-1 in automated mode two days later.   After spending several days adjusting to weightlessness, Liu Wang and mission commander Jing Haipeng reentered Shenzhou-9 and conducted preliminary tests in preparation for Liu Wang to perform a manual re-docking.   The third crew-member, Liu Yang, China’s first woman astronaut, remained in Tiangong-1 during this exercise.  She has been in charge of biological and medical experiments.  Later, all three entered Shenzhou-9, undocked, and manually redocked.

Xinhua did not announce the time that Shenzhou-9 undocked from Tiangong-1, but said the crew had reentered the capsule at 6:00 am Beijing Time June 28 (6:00 pm June 27 EDT).  Bob Christy at said undocking was at 9:22 am Beijing time June 28 (01:22 GMT; 9:22 pm June 27 EDT) and calculates that landing will be at 02:03 GMT June 29 (10:03 pm tonight EDT).

Tiangong-1 will be boosted to a higher orbit until China is ready to launch the next crew, expected next year. 

Correction:  An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that one of the three crew remained on Tiangong-1 during the manual docking exercise, but all three were in Shenzhou-9 when the spacecraft separated from and then redocked with Tiangong-1.  It was during a preliminary test that two were in Shenzhou-9 and one remained in Tiangong-1;  the two vehicles remained docked together during that test.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.