Three Chinese astronauts have returned to Earth after six months of completing construction of the Tiangong station, state television reported.
Commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe landed in a space capsule at the landing site in northern China’s Gobi Desert around 12:10 p.m., according to China Central Television.
The astronauts spent six months with three other colleagues who arrived on the Shenzhou-15 mission earlier this week before departing.
This marks the first time that China has sent six astronauts into space at the same time.
About 40 minutes after landing, medical staff lifted the astronauts out of the cabin, and they emerged in high spirits, waving happily to the landing site staff.
Mr. Chen, who was the first to walk out of the space capsule, said: “After six busy and fulfilling months in space, I am lucky to be able to witness the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station.
“We returned to the embrace of our motherland like a meteor.”
Another astronaut, Ms. Liu, recalled how touched she was when she saw relatives and colleagues.
Three astronauts participated Shenzhou XIV mission launched in June.
While in Tiangong, the astronauts witnessed five rendezvous and dockings with various spacecraft, including one carrying the third of the space station’s three modules.
They also performed a series of experiments and performed three spacewalks.
Tiangong is part of China’s permanent manned orbit program, a major milestone in the country’s 30-year manned spaceflight program, which was first approved in 1992.
If the International Space Station is decommissioned by the end of the century as expected, it weighs about 66 tons without additional spacecraft and could one day become the only space station still in operation.
Astronauts return to a once Beset by protests in recent daysas the communist regime’s patience with strict COVID restrictions ran out.
Some cities ease lockdown rules as a result of the demonstrations.