China's taikonauts return from heavenly palace after 92-day mission

Plenty more launches planned to attach another couple of modules

The first crewed mission to China's space station has ended successfully.

Taikonauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo returned to Earth last week, after their Shenzhou 12 capsule descended beneath parachutes and touched the soil of Inner Mongolia.

The trio spent 90 days docked at China's Tiangong space station, a facility the nation says will soon be permanently crewed. The three taikonauts undertook many tasks to make that possible, among them a pair of spacewalks to ready the station for the connection of more modules.

Tiangong is currently comprised of just one module: Tianhe is 16.6 metres long, 4.2 metres in diameter, and includes life support hardware.

China plans to fit two more modules in 2022, and eleven launches to build the station into its final "T-shaped" form.

One of those missions, Tianzhou-2, launched in May. Once the three taikonauts left the station, it repositioned itself from Tiangong's rear docking port to its forward port. The automated procedure took four hours.

The crewed mission set all sorts of spaceflight duration records for China, with commander Nie Haisheng becoming the first Chinese citizen to travel into space twice. He's now clocked up 111 days outside the surly bonds of Earth – a span that places him 168th on the all-time ranking of human space-dwellers.

China's keen to have more crew spend time in space for strategic, scientific, and publicity purposes. Tiangong is considered a testbed that will have a life of around a decade. The nation hasn't announced firm plans for a successor station, but is researching the feasibility of larger outposts – including a lunar base built in co-operation with Russia. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022