Beijing has once again shown that it is now a major player in the conquest of space.
Three Chinese astronauts began their return trip to Earth on Thursday after a record 90-day mission to the construction site of China's space station.
This Shenzhou-12 mission, launched in June shortly before the centenary celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party, has a dimension of national prestige for the power of President Xi Jinping.
It is the longest ever carried out by Chinese astronauts, the agency responsible for human space flights said in a statement.
Their return to Earth is expected on Friday.
An arrival in the Gobi desert
According to specialized websites, the crew should land in the Gobi Desert (Northwest), not far from the Jiuquan Space Center from where it took off on June 16.
On Thursday, the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft separated from the Tiangong station to which it had been docked for three months at 8:56 a.m. Beijing time, the space agency said.
The previous Chinese manned mission, Shenzhou-11, dated from the end of 2016. It only lasted 33 days.
During their stay, the astronauts worked on the installation of the space station, the first part of which was launched in April.
They carried out several spacewalks.
The Shenzhou-12 mission is the third launch of the 11 that will be needed to build the station by the end of 2022. Three other manned missions are still planned and an unmanned flight, Tianzhou-3, is scheduled for Monday.
Three astronauts took off to the Chinese space station
Launch of the first element of the Chinese space station