Three Chinese astronauts landed back on Earth Friday following their three-month trip to China’s first self-developed space station, marking China’s longest-ever space mission.
The Shenzhou-12 spaceship first undocked from the Chinese space station Thursday morning, and footage captured by state broadcaster CCTV showed the spacecraft parachuting down to the Gobi Desert shortly after 1:30 p.m. local time, according to The Associated Press.
Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo emerged from the capsule about half an hour later, and were pictured sitting in reclining chairs to allow them time to adjust to Earth’s gravity.
SPACED OUT: Chinese astronauts return home after 90-day mission to space station. The crew members were the first inhabitants of China’s Tiangong space station. https://t.co/7eMFj5ZNqq pic.twitter.com/RusQclgJr4— ABC News (@ABC) September 17, 2021
The AP reported that the men were scheduled to fly to Beijing on Friday.
Nie, the space mission’s commander, told CCTV, “With China’s growing strength and the rising level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe there will even more astronauts who will set new records.”
The astronauts launched into space in June, marking the first time since 2016 that China had sent a manned mission to space.
Throughout their 90-day mission, the astronauts conducted two spacewalks, used a 33-foot mechanical arm and conducted a video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the AP.
China in 2003 became the third country after the Soviet Union and the U.S. to complete a mission to space, and has since sent a total of 14 astronauts beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
The country has announced plans to launch a total of 11 missions to its space station for cargo and other astronauts by the end of 2022.
This year, China landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, with its Zhurong rover traveling around the planet searching for possible signs of life.
China is not allowed to send its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), which is operated through a joint effort among the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and several European countries.
The U.S. objected to China’s involvement in the ISS, citing concerns on the Chinese space program’s secretary and funding from the military, according to the AP.