Three Chinese astronauts have landed on Earth after spending six months completing construction of the Tiangong station, state television reported.
Commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe landed in a capsule at a landing site in the Gobi Desert in northern China at around 12:10 p.m., according to China Central Television.
Before leaving, the astronauts overlapped with three other colleagues who arrived on the Shenzhou-15 mission earlier this week for their own six-month stay.
It was the first time that China had six astronauts in space at the same time.
Medical workers released the astronauts from the capsule about 40 minutes after landing, and they appeared in high spirits as they cheerfully greeted workers at the landing site.
Mr. Chen, who was the first to step out of the capsule, said: “I am very fortunate to have witnessed the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station after six busy and fulfilling months in the world. ‘space.
“Like meteors, we have returned to the embrace of the homeland.”
Another of the astronauts, Ms Liu, recalled how moved she was to see relatives and colleagues.
The three astronauts were part of the Shenzhou-14 mission, launched in June.
While in Tiangong, the astronauts oversaw five rendezvous and dockings with various spacecraft, including one carrying the third of the station’s three modules.
They also conducted a series of experiments, as well as three spacewalks.
Tiangong is part of China’s plans for a permanent human presence in orbit and represents a milestone in the country’s three-decade manned space program, first approved in 1992.
Weighing around 66 tons with no spacecraft attached, it could one day be the only space station still operational if the ISS retires towards the end of the decade as planned.
The astronauts returned to a country that was plagued by protests in recent daysas patience runs out with the communist regime’s strict COVID restrictions.
Lockdown rules have been relaxed in some cities following the protests.