Shenzhou capsule carried dummies, German payload
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: November 19, 2011
Chinese recovery crews retrieved two dummy astronauts and a German experiment aboard the Shenzhou 8 space capsule after landing Thursday.
The Shenzhou 8 capsule plummeted through the atmosphere and parachuted to Earth on Thursday, touching down at about 1130 GMT (6:30 a.m. EST) in the grasslands of China's Inner Mongolia province. Teams tilted the gumdrop-shaped spacecraft upright and removed several time-critical payloads, including dummies and the joint Chinese-German SIMBOX experiment.
SIMBOX stands for Science in Microgravity Box, and it contained an array of biological samples for Shenzhou 8's mission.
Attired in spacesuits and helmets, each 165-pound dummy astronaut contained sensors to measure vital signs such as body temperature, respiration, pulse and blood pressure, according to Chinese state media.
China has launched dummies before on a test before the country's first manned flight in 2003, but the Shenzhou 8 experiment will prepare for longer manned missions.
China has launched three manned Shenzhou missions since 2003, but the longest flight lasted less than five days in 2005. The Shenzhou 8 mission blasted off Oct. 31 and stayed in orbit for 17 days, the longest ever flight of a Shenzhou vehicle.
The SIMBOX payload carried 17 experiments designed by German and Chinese researchers. Plants, nematodes, bacteria and human cancer cells inside the SIMBOX container were exposed to weightlessness and radiation, addressing fundamental biological and medical questions.
SIMBOX featured an intelligent incubator and centrifuge and was built by EADS Astrium.
The flight of SIMBOX aboard Shenzhou 8 marked the Chinese human space program's first cooperation with another country.
SIMBOX and the Shenzhou 8 capsule were returned to Beijing after landing.
Shenzhou 8 docked with China's Tiangong space laboratory module twice, demonstrating a suite of high-tech rendezvous and navigation sensors more than 200 miles above Earth. The mission also tested a docking system based on a Russian design used on the International Space Station.
Chinese Gen. Chang Wanquan hailed the mission as a complete success shortly after Thursday's landing.