Beijing: President Xi Jinping on Wednesday spoke to the three astronauts stationed in China’s space station and told them that the project is an important milestone in the country’s ambitious space exploration programme.
China successfully launched its longest crewed space mission to date on Thursday, sending three astronauts to its new orbiting station, in a major milestone for the Communist giant’s space exploration plans and establishing it as a leading space power.
Xi, also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party and the head of the People’s Liberation Army, spoke to astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo from the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre.
In his first direct contact with the astronauts telecast live by the state-run television channels, Xi thanked them for their work in space in a five-minute call reflecting the importance of the country’s space exploration project to the Chinese leadership.
You will spend three months in space and while in space, your work and your life will be in the hearts of the Chinese public, he said.
Establishing our own space station is an important milestone and a significant contribution to humankind’s peaceful use of space, he was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The three astronauts saluted Xi and thanked the country for its support. All three are members of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) which is celebrating its centenary on July 1.
This will be China’s longest crewed space mission to date and the first in nearly five years.
China previously sent the space station’s Tianhe core cabin module on April 29, and a cargo spacecraft with supplies on May 29.
The three astronauts, who will build the station, are expected to set a new record for China’s manned space mission duration, exceeding the 33 days kept by the Shenzhou-11 crew in 2016.
The three astronauts were sent into space by the Shenzhou-12 spaceship on June 17 and docked with the core module Tianhe on the same day.
They will spend the next three months constructing the space station named Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) which will be rival to International Space Station (ISS), a collaborative project involving five participating space agencies – NASA (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).
Tiangong was expected to be ready by next year. (PTI)
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