Three astronauts who spent six months in space constructing China's new space station are ready to return home.
Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe are scheduled to leave the Tiangong space station and reenter Earth's atmosphere in their Shenzhou 14 spacecraft on Sunday (Dec. 4), according to airspace closure notices.
The crew are set to land in their reentry capsule in the Gobi Desert near the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at around 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT; 8:10 p.m. Beijing time). A backup window for landing is open 90 minutes, or one orbit of Earth, later.
Ground crews completed rescue and recovery drills on Thursday (Dec. 1) in preparation for the landing, Chinese state media reported.
The Shenzhou 14 trio launched for the Tianhe space station core module from Jiuquan on June 5 (GMT) and oversaw the arrival of two new modules in orbit, helping to complete the T-shaped Tiangong.
They greeted the incoming Shenzhou 15 crew on Nov. 29, marking the first time China ever had six astronauts in space at the same time. After celebrating the orbital get together, the two crews began preparing for the first Tiangong crew handover and the Shenzhou 14 crew's voyage home.