After six months in space, three Chinese astronauts have returned to Earth from their mission on the “Tiangong” space station. The space capsule carrying Commander Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin landed in the northern province of Inner Mongolia, Chinese state television reported.

At the end of October last year, the team took off with their spaceship “Shenzhou 17” (magic ship) to the “Tiangong” (Heavenly Palace) and carried out maintenance work there. These were necessary because flying space debris had damaged the space station.

Before their return, the men on the “Tiangong” were relieved. The three-person crew of the current “Shenzhou 18” mission will also remain in space for about six months. Commander Ye Guangfu, Li Cong and Li Guangsu, who are trained pilots in the People’s Liberation Army, are scheduled to conduct experiments and spacewalks during the period, the Chinese Manned Space Administration said earlier.

The government in Beijing has been pushing forward its space program for years in competition with other nations such as the USA. An important lunar probe, the “Chang’e 6”, is expected to be launched from the spaceport on the southern holiday island of Hainan in the coming days. “Chang’e 6” is intended to land on the far side of the moon and collect rock samples there. After decades, the moon has once again become the destination of several spacefaring nations, also because important raw materials are believed to be there. In addition, the missions are considered to be technically very complex and therefore prestigious.