Chinese President Hu Jintao came to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on Tuesday and spoke with astronauts currently implementing the space mission aboard the conjoint Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and Tiangong-1 orbiter.
The President was accompanied by senior leaders Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.
Hu extended his sincere greetings to the three astronauts, Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut.
Hu praised the astronauts for their excellent performance in China’s first manual rendezvous and docking mission, which showcased the country’s full command of space docking technologies.
“The smooth completion of the manual docking shows China fully grasps space docking technology,” Hu said in a conversation with the astronauts that was broadcast live on state television.
Beijing sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
Jing Haipeng, who is leading the astronaut team, told the Chinese president that the three were in good condition after 10 days in space. State media said the spacecraft could return to earth on Friday.
“Chinese astronauts have our own home in the space. We feel proud of our great country,” Jing said, as the three astronauts dressed in blue jumpsuits stood to receive the call from Hu.
Aside from being congratulated by Hu, the astronauts also received greetings from the oceanauts from the Jiaolong submarine, but there have been mixed reactions from netizens. CNN adds:
The three men on board the sub — dubbed oceanauts in China — sent greetings to the three astronauts on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.
But some Chinese internet users, while lauding the achievements, questioned whether these exploits were the wisest use of China’s new-found wealth.
“Diving into the sea and flying out to space. China now can do them both,” said one user of the Twitter-like portal Sina Weibo.
“It marks the development of technology and we are proud of it. But can the government care more about its people’s well-being too?”
From another Xinhua article, the astronauts also sent congratulatory messages to the oceanauts:
Three Chinese astronauts succeeding in China’s first manual space docking mission on Sunday congratulated over a new dive record set by the country’s manned submersible in its exploration in deep ocean.
“We wish China’s manned submersible cause greater achievement! May our motherland prosper!” three Chinese astronauts said in a video message sent back to Earth from the Tiangong-1 space lab module.