The spacecraft Shenzhou-11, which is carrying taikonauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, separated from the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab on Thursday.

The separation marks the beginning of the journey home for the two men, after having lived and worked in Tiangong-2 for 30 days, the longest stay in space by Chinese astronauts.

Before the separation, the astronauts extended their thanks and respect to their ground team and to everyone who had supported China’s space programme.

After the separation, Shenzhou-11 would remain at a point near the space lab before they are given leave by the ground team to embark on their return journey.

Around one day later, the reentry module will descend from an orbit about 393 kilometres above Earth, a true test for Shenzhou-11’s reentry system.

Report says Tiangong-2 will remain in its orbit and remote experiments will continue until it docks with Tianzhou-1, China’s first cargo spacecraft, which is set to be launched in April 2017.