Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 6 months aboard Space Station

Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 6 months aboard Space Station

Three Chinese astronauts safely returned to Earth after six months aboard the Tiangong space station on December 4th, according to state, the country's space agency said, with their mission deemed a complete success. The station's crew, which had been aboard the station since June 30, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in Inner Mongolia at 8.09 pm Beijing time, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

The report said medical personnel were in good health.

The Tiangong space station is the crown jewel of Beijing's ambitious space programme - which has landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon and made the country the third to put humans in space - as it looks to catch up with the United States and Russia.

The three Shenzhou 14 astronauts mission commanders Chen Dong, China's first woman astronaut Liu Yang and teammate Cai Xuzhe had been tasked with overseeing the final stages of construction of the space station.

State media said that the last module docked with Tiangong's core structure last month, a key step in its completion by the end of the year.

The formation of our space station's basic configuration is honoured, said Chen, an air force pilot who became the first Chinese astronaut to stay in orbit for more than 200 days, according to Xinhua.

The team handed the baton to the Shenzhou 15 crew -- China's first crew handover in orbit.

Since 2011, China has been excluded from the International Space Station when the United States banned NASA from engaging with the country.

When completed, the Tiangong space station is expected to have a mass of 90 tonnes - about a quarter of the ISS or similar in size to the Soviet-built Mir station that orbited Earth from the 1980s to 2001.

Tiangong, which means heavenly palace will be operational for around a decade and host a variety of experiments in near-zero gravity.