Three Chinese astronauts who spent half a year aboard their country’s space station have safely made it back to Earth according to the Chinese space agency.
The three astronauts – commander Chen Dong and teammates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – who had been overseeing the final, pivotal period of construction at the space station, which was completed in November, all said they were feeling well after landing in audio aired on CCTV.
The six-month mission was a “complete success,” according to China’s space agency. All three astronauts stated they were in good condition following their arrival, as heard in audio that was aired by Chinese broadcaster CCTV.
Prior to their arrival, Liu Yang, who made history as the first Chinese female astronaut in space, shared that she felt “excited to return to the motherland,” according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
The capsule landed at the Dongfeng site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 8:09 p.m. (1209 GMT), with staff from the space agency declaring the entire mission, which began on June 5, a “complete success”, CCTV reported.
Staff at the landing site carried out the exhausted-looking crew one by one and by just after 9 p.m. all three had safely exited the capsule, CCTV reported.
A new crew of three fellow Chinese astronauts arrived at the space station aboard the Shenzhou-15 to take over from them on Wednesday.
The space station represents a significant milestone in China’s three-decades-long manned space program, first approved in 1992. It also flags the start of permanent Chinese habitation in space.
Construction of the station began in April last year with the launch of the first and largest of its three modules, Tianhe, being the living quarters of visiting astronauts.