Chinese returnable research satellite Shijian-10 (SJ-10, NORAD ID: 41448) successfully returned after 12 days space journey to Earth.

Satellite returned three days earlier than it was previously announced (mission was described with duration of 15 days). It was launched at 17:38 GMT on April 5, 2016 and spent 12 days remaining on LEO at 220 km x 482 km with inclination at 63°. Spacecraft landed on April 18, 2016, at 16:30 GMT in Siziwang Banner landing zone placed in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. It is landing zone utilized for manned spacecrafts from Shenzhou series, for returnable satellites southwestern region of province of Sichuan is rather utilized. According to SJ-10 mission commander, Qiu Jiawen, decision about changing landing zone was made due the safety reasons and possibility of easier and faster recovering capsule with scientific payload.

According to Xinhua news agency capsule separated from propulsion module 15 minutes before touch down. Capsule was transported to China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) which was manufacturing satellite to extract scientific payload. 19 Experiments which were payload of SJ-10 will be transported to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Payload represents truly example of international cooperation: in spite of six Chinese universities and CAS experiments were prepared also by ESA and JAXA. Also commercial companies participated in mission – two oil companies, French Total and Chinese PetroChina send their experiment which was referring to processes in crude oil in simulated conditions of 8000 m depth. Most important seems experiment performed by CAS which was referring to cell development in microgravity. Over 6000 mouse embryos were sent with microscope and camera for observation influence of low gravity on cell development. Results were positive and according to CAS, after only 72 hours in space cell development was spotted. It was quite similar to progress of cell development which could be observed on Earth. This experiment was first successful attempt of sending and bringing back from space mammal embryos. Results of experiment are crucial to understood to sustain life beyond Earth and determine whether it is possible the survival of the human species off the Earth. Its potential practical purpose could be for example space farming and breeding animals in future bases on Moon or Mars. Value of experiment was well described by chief of the team responsible for experiment in Chinese Academy of Sciences, Professor Duan Enkui:

“The human race may still have a long way to go before we can colonize the space, ..But before that, we have to figure out whether it is possible for us to survive and reproduce in the outer space environment like we do on Earth. Now, we finally proved that the most crucial step in our reproduction – the early embryo development – is possible in the outer space.”

On picture above: this is what Chinese recovery team would not like to see yesterday – satellite is burning and falling apart during reentry.