Xi greets as­tro­nauts, lauds space pro­gram

Pres­i­dent says the lat­est mis­sion has in­spired na­tion to greater in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By CHEN MENGWEI chen­meng­wei@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping hailed China’s lat­est achieve­ments in space exploration and stressed the im­por­tance of sci­en­tific in­no­va­tion in the field while meet­ing on Tues­day with Tian­gong II and Shen­zhou XI as­tro­nauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong.

Xi had lengthy chats with Jing and Chen while shak­ing hands with them at Bei­jing’s Great Hall of the Peo­ple, as seen on China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion’s evening news pro­gram.

Xi said China’s progress in space tech­nol­ogy is in­dica­tive of the na­tion’s ca­pa­bil­ity to in­no­vate and cre­ate. The mis­sion’s progress has greatly in­spired Chi­nese peo­ple to go fur­ther in in­no­va­tion, he said.

Xi also spoke with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of those in­volved in re­search and test­ing for the lat­est space mis­sion. Xi, also gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, was ac­com­pa­nied by six other top lead­ers of the Party.

Xi ap­plauded Jing’s three mis­sions in space, with the most re­cent be­ing as a ma­jor gen­eral. He also asked the as­tro­nauts how they felt af­ter re­turn­ing to Earth and if ev­ery­thing was all right.

The pres­i­dent also men- tioned that Jing spent his 50th birth­day in space.

“You had a very high-level birth­day,” Xi said with a smile.

Dur­ing a later ad­dress, Xi said: “More than a month ago, the mis­sion was suc­cess­fully com­pleted. I spoke with the two as­tro­nauts. And just like ev­ery one of you, I felt very happy, very proud.”

Xi noted that this year marks the 60th an­niver­sary of China’s space­flight de­vel­op­ment, and the mis­sion should be noted as a mile­stone in his­tory. He wel­comed the fact that tal­ent, es­pe­cially the young, is drawn to the pro­gram.

The Shen­zhou XI space­craft, launched on Oct 17, docked two days later with the Tian­gong II space lab, where Jing and Chen lived for 30 days. It was the long­est Chi­nese as­tro­nauts had spent in space, sur­pass­ing the 15-day Shen­zhou X mis­sion of June 2013.

The mis­sion tested, among other things, the space­craft’s abil­ity to meet, dock and re­turn. It is China’s sixth manned space flight and is ex­pected to pave the way for a per­ma­nent space sta­tion, which the coun­try plans to start build­ing in 2018 and put into ser­vice around 2022.

Jing pre­vi­ously was a mem­ber of the Shen­zhou VII mis­sion in 2008 and the Shen­zhou IX mis­sion in 2012.

Chen is the first man in the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese as­tro­nauts to make a space­flight. Two of his fe­male coun­ter­parts, Liu Yang and Wang Yap­ing, have trav­eled to space.

Zhao Lei con­trib­uted to this story.

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