Chinese state media said on Sunday that three astronauts returned to Earth aboard the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft, concluding a six-month mission at China’s space station.
After returning to Earth, the three astronauts who oversaw the crucial final phase of construction on the space station (commander Chen Dong and crewmates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe) reported feeling fine in an audio broadcast on CCTV.
At 8:09 p.m. (12:09 GMT), the capsule landed at the Dongfeng site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous province, with space agency employees proclaiming the entire operation, which had begun on June 5, a “full success,” as reported by CCTV.
By 9 p.m., all three weary crew members had been safely removed from the capsule, as shown on CCTV.
They were replaced on Wednesday by a new crew of three Chinese astronauts who had arrived at the space station onboard the Shenzhou-15.
With its approval in 1992, China has been working toward building a space station for the past three decades. It’s a milestone for Chinese space exploration and the beginning of a new era of Chinese space colonisation.
Tianhe, the largest of the station’s three modules and the future home of visiting astronauts, was launched in April last year to kick off construction.