2 as­tro­nauts de­scribe food and fun on 33-day jour­ney, say time flew by

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Stay­ing home for a whole week might seem un­bear­able to most peo­ple, but for as­tro­nauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, stay­ing in space for a month was not enough.

“We hoped that the mis­sion could last longer be­cause we had so much fun in space,” said Jing, com­man­der of the Shen­zhou XI mis­sion. “We had a very mem­o­rable jour­ney.”

Jing, 50, who is now China’s most ex­pe­ri­enced as­tro­naut, and Chen, 37, a first-time space flier, met with reporters on Wed­nes­day at the As­tro­naut Cen­ter of China in Bei­jing’s north­west­ern suburbs.

Ap­pear­ing in pub­lic for the first time since re­turn­ing to Earth on Nov 18, fol­low­ing a month­long mis­sion in or­bit, the two were kept at a safe dis­tance from reporters be­cause they were still in quar­an­tine.

The as­tro­nauts em­barked on the space trip aboard the Shen­zhou XI space­craft from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter on Oct 17. They en­tered the Tian­gong II space lab­o­ra­tory, which was launched in mid-Septem­ber from the same cen­ter, on Oct 19.

Their 33-day jour­ney was the long­est space stay by Chi­nese as­tro­nauts. The long­est pre­vi­ous space trip by Chi­nese as­tro­nauts was the 15-day Shen­zhou X mis­sion in June 2013.

“Though our sched­ules were tight, we very much en­joyed the work and life in space,” Jing said. “We watched TV pro­grams or lis­tened to mu­sic while hav­ing din­ner. We tossed food to­ward each other and saw it float in the air, and we just opened our mouth to wait for it.”

Chen said they had con­tests to see who could per­form the most som­er­saults in the weight­less Tian­gong II.

“There were a lot of things in the mis­sion that I will never for­get. I ob­served the sprout­ing of seeds and watched silk­worms spin a co­coon. I was of­ten shocked by the mag­nif­i­cence of the uni­verse when I looked out the win­dows,” he re­called.

Huang Weifen, deputy re­search head of the As­tro­naut Cen­ter of China, said Jing and Chen are in good health and will fin­ish a three-week med­i­cal quar­an­tine on Fri­day.

CHEN JIAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

As­tro­nauts Jing Haipeng (left) and Chen Dong meet with reporters in Bei­jing on Wed­nes­day.

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