2 astronauts describe food and fun on 33-day journey, say time flew by
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.
Astronauts Jing Haipeng (left) and Chen Dong meet with reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.