Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday talked with the two astronauts in the space lab Tiangong-2, at the command center of China’s manned space program in Beijing.
The two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, embarked on their 33-day journey, the longest mission in the country’s manned space program to date, onboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft on Oct. 17. They entered Tiangong-2 on Oct. 19.
Xi expressed his sincere greetings to the two astronauts on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Council, the Central Military Commission, and people of all ethnic groups in the country.
“You have lived in space for more than half a month, and this is the third manned space mission Comrade Haipeng has undertaken and the first time for Comrade Chen Dong to enter space,” Xi said during the video call. “All the Chinese people care about you very much.”
Responding to Xi’s inquiries about their work, health and living conditions, Jing, commander of the crew, said they felt very well and were working as scheduled.
Jing told the president that they could even watch the China Central Television (CCTV) evening news bulletin, or “Xinwen Lianbo,” in space.
“China’s manned space program has reached a new height. Chinese astronauts now enjoy better working and living conditions in space. We feel very proud of our great motherland,” Jing said.
Chen said he had adapted to the zero-gravity environment in space, and his daily life and work there was normal. He vowed to work harder and fulfill the remaining tasks.
Xi said he was delighted to learn the astronauts were in good condition, speaking highly of their coordinated efforts in facing difficulties.
The president said he hoped the two astronauts would keep up the good work through close cooperation and careful operation, so as to complete their mission.
Shenzhou-11, China’s sixth manned spacecraft, was launched on Oct. 17 from northwest China’s Gobi Desert.
It approached Tiangong-2, which was launched into space on Sept. 15, and automatically docked with the space lab on Oct. 19.
The mission aims to transport personnel and materials between Earth and Tiangong-2, and test the ability to successfully meet, dock and return.
Other objectives include aerospace medical experiments, space science experiments and in-orbit maintenance.
Before the talk, Jing and Chen carried out an in-orbit maintenance test using man-robotics coordination, the first ever such test in space.