BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Hu Jintao came to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on Tuesday and spoke with astronauts currently implementing the space mission aboard the conjoint Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and Tiangong-1 orbiter. The President was accompanied by senior leaders Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.
Hu extended his sincere greetings to the three astronauts, Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut. “You have spent nearly 10 days in space, we care about you. How are you feeling?” asked the president.
Mission commander Jing said they were in good condition and told the president, “Chinese astronauts have their own home in space now. We are proud of our country!”
Hu also asked whether their assignments were going well. Jing said that all work was going smoothly, the manual docking had been completed successfully and the crew members were doing scientific experiments as planned.
Hu praised the astronauts for their excellent performance in China’s first manual rendezvous and docking mission, which showcased the country’s full command of space docking technologies.
The president thanked the astronauts for their contributions to the country’s manned space program, adding, “We and your families are looking forward to your successful and safe return.”
The three astronauts saluted the president at the end of their talk.
On June 24, the three Chinese astronauts successfully completed a manual docking between the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module, the first such attempt in China’s history of space exploration.
The success of the procedure shows that China has completely grasped space rendezvous and docking technologies and the country is fully capable of transporting humans and cargo to an orbiter in space, which is essential for the country’s plans to build a space station around 2020.
The spacecraft and the space lab were previously joined in an automated docking on June 18, after the three astronauts were sent into space aboard the Shenzhou-9 on June 16 from a launch center in northwest China’s Gobi desert.
The three astronauts, 343 km away from Earth, and the Chinese oceanauts from the Mariana Trench, 7,020 meters beneath the Pacific Ocean, where they just broke the country’s dive record in a manned submersible, also exchanged greetings on June 24.
China also succeeded in automated space dockings between the unmanned spaceship Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 late last year.