Three Chinese astronauts are safely back on Earth after a smooth weekend landing to end a six-month mission to the country's Tiangong space station.
Shenzhou 15 mission commander Fei Junlong and crewmates Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu returned to Earth at 6:34 a.m. Beijing Time on Sunday, June 4 (6:34 p.m. EDT or 2234 GMTon June 3) as the sun rose over their Dongfeng landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. They had been aboard the Tiangong space station since November last year.
"We are feeling good," Fei told CCTV reporters just after recovery teams helped him out of the Shenzhou 15 capsule after landing.
Earlier this week, Fei and his crewmates handed control of the space sttion over tor their relief crew flying China's Shenzhou 16 mission.
"We have completed the in-orbit mission of Shenzhou 15. Now I hand over the keys to the space station, as arranged," Fei said, Chinese broadcaster CCTV reported.
"On behalf of the Shenzhou 16 mission crew and after a thorough inspection and review, I have confirmed that there is no problem and will sign," said Shenzhou 16 commander Jing Haipeng.
The Shenzhou 15 trio welcomed the incoming Shenzhou 16 crew to Tiangong on Monday (May 29), and on Friday (June 2) all six astronauts participated in a ceremony to hand over control of the space station to the newcomers.
The return capsule touched down within the Dongfeng landing site, close to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, from which the crew launched six months ago.
Teams on the ground completed rescue and recovery drills at Dongfeng on Thursday (June 1) in preparation for the return to Earth, Chinese media reported. After the spacecraft landed, those teams were on site within a few minutes to right the capsule from its side landing and begin extracting the crew. All three astronauts were safely out of the capsule in less than an hour.
The Shenzhou 15 crew embarked on four spacewalks during their time aboard Tiangong, marking a national record. They also conducted a range of science experiments and outreach activities.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include the results of the successful landing of the Shenzhou 15 crew at 7 p.m. EDT.