China’s Shenzhou-12 crew appears headed for return to Earth this Friday, September 17, departing the Tianhe space station core module.

A navigation warning issued indicates that the Taikonaut trio will land around 5:30 UTC, according to the Zarya website, maintained by Robert Christy.

The crew — Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – are targeted for landing at the Dongfeng landing site in the desert of North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Utilized for the first time for returning space adventurers, that landing zone received the unpiloted return capsule of China’s trial version of a new-generation crewed spacecraft back in May 2020, following a flight of two days and 19 hours.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Prior to the Shenzhou-12 spaceship return, it was earlier reported that it will also conduct circumnavigation and radial rendezvous tests with the core module, all preparatory work for the Shenzhou-13 mission.

Robotic arm helps on space station construction.
Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab


Next liftoffs

To continue the build-up of China’s Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station, an uncrewed Tianzhou-3 resupply spaceship is now being primed for liftoff, perhaps departing next Monday from the southern island of Hainan.

A piloted Shenzhou-13 spaceship is reportedly ready for a takeoff in September-October from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

This new fresh trio — likely including a woman – will stay in orbit for six months.

Given the launch today of the SpaceX Falcon booster, placing the four-person Inspiration4 into Earth orbit, there will be 14 humans circling the planet: The Shenzhou-12 threesome; Seven people on the International Space Station, and the Inspiration4 space travelers.

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