In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, an image captured off a screen at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China shows the Shenzhou-15 and Shenzhou-14 crew chatting after a historic gathering in space on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. Three Chinese astronauts docked early Wednesday with their country’s space station, where they will overlap for several days with the three-member crew already onboard and expand the facility to its maximum size. Image Credit: AP

BEIJING: Three Chinese astronauts landed in a northern desert on Sunday after six months working to complete construction of the Tiangong station, a symbol of the country’s ambitious space programme, state TV reported.

A capsule carrying commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe touched down at a landing site in the Gobi Desert in northern China at approximately 8:10pm (1210 GMT), China Central Television reported.

The three astronauts were part of the Shenzhou-14 mission, which launched in June.

The Tiangong is part of official Chinese plans for a permanent human presence in orbit.

China in 2003 became the third government to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

The government has landed robot probes on the little-explored far side of the moon and on Mars. In 2020, a probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

A crew of three Chinese astronauts blasted off Tuesday for Tiangong’s final construction stage. The station’s third and final module docked with the station this month.