Beijing, Dec 5 (EFE).- The crew of China’s Tiangong space station returned to Earth after a six-month long mission, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Monday.
The Shenzhou-14 spacecraft, carrying astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, landed at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, at 8:09 pm on Sunday, the China Manned Space Agency announced.
It was the first-ever in-orbit crew rotation carried out by the country’s space program.
The agency said that the three astronauts were in good physical condition.
Liu, who in 2012 became the first Chinese woman to visit space, described her stay at Tiangong as an “unforgettable” experience.
The three astronauts arrived at Tiangong on June 5.
During their mission, they carried out three extravehicular activities, gave science lessons from the space station and conducted several scientific experiments.
Their replacements, astronauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, who arrived a week ago, are tasked with completing the station’s construction over a six-month period.
During that time, the station will be expanded and reach its largest size, with a total mass of 100 tonnes.
Once construction is complete, the Shenzhou-15 astronauts will hand over the station to the Shenzhou-16 crew.
Tiangong, whose name means Heavenly Palace in Mandarin, will weigh about 70 tons and is expected to operate for about 15 years orbiting about 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
By 2024, it could become the world’s only space station if the International Space Station, a United States-led initiative to which China is barred due to military ties to its space program, is withdrawn that year as planned.
In recent years, the Chinese space program has achieved successes such as landing the Chang’e 4 probe on the hidden side of the Moon ? the first time it has been achieved ? and reaching Mars for the first time, becoming the third country to do so after the US and the former Soviet Union. EFE