The three taikonauts in the Chinese space station, under construction, completed their mission and began their journey back to Earth on Thursday.
The three Chinese astronauts spent 90 days in space, a record for China, state media report. Construction of the Chinese space station began last April. Four of the eleven missions necessary to complete it will be manned. The next manned mission will last six months.
The Chinese station, due for completion in late 2022, may soon be the only operable space station, which would allow China to challenge US dominance in orbital space.
The International Space Station (ISS) – on which the Frenchman Thomas Pesquet is currently on board – is theoretically due to be retired in 2024.
US laws prohibited China from collaborating with NASA and participating in Project ISS alongside space agencies from the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Japan has worked to develop its own space station and programming missions to the Moon, Mars, and other planets for ten years.