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Chinese astronauts to return home after longest-ever space mission

Editor: Zhang Jianfeng 丨Xinhua

11-17-2016 15:18 BJT

Full coverage: China Tiangong-2 Space Lab Launch

BEIJING, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- The spacecraft Shenzhou-11, which is carrying taikonauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, separated from the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab at 12:41 p.m. Thursday Beijing Time.

Photo provided by Astronaut Center of China shows Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (R) and Chen Dong accept their first earth-space interview in Tiangong-2, Nov. 15, 2016. Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong are currently on a 33-day space journey and acting as Xinhua special correspondents. On Tuesday, they talked with their copy desk on earth for the first time. (Xinhua)

Photo provided by Astronaut Center of China shows Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (R) and Chen Dong accept their first earth-space interview in Tiangong-2, Nov. 15, 2016. Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong are currently on a 33-day space journey and acting as Xinhua special correspondents. On Tuesday, they talked with their copy desk on earth for the first time. (Xinhua)

The separation marks the beginning of the journey home for the two men, after having lived and worked in Tiangong-2 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-11 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-11's reentry system.

Tiangong-2 will remain in its orbit and remote experiments will continue until it docks with Tianzhou-1, China's first cargo spacecraft, which is set to be launched in April 2017.

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