Hu praises 'excellent performance' of crew

Updated: 2012-06-27 03:17

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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Hu praises 'excellent performance' of crew

Controllers at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center watch the screen as three astronauts in the Tiangong-1 lab module talk with President Hu Jintao on Tuesday. [Ma Zhancheng / Xinhua]

Mission commander calls lab module a 'home in space' for China's astronauts

Three Chinese astronauts in the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module received greetings from President Hu Jintao on Tuesday.

In the 3-minute talk, Hu, who visited the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, asked the astronauts how they felt after spending nearly 10 days in space.

Mission commander Jing Haipeng said they were in good condition, and added they are very proud that "Chinese astronauts have their own home in space now".

Watching the astronauts on a big screen, Hu smiled and praised the crew for their "excellent performance" in China's first manned space docking mission.

"We and your families are looking forward to your successful and safe return," he said.

The talk was on broadcast live on TV. Footage provided by the control center also showed that Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, kept combing her hair before the talk began. She smiled during the whole talk with the president.

Liu, the 34-year-old former air force pilot, has become a media darling for her smile and charm.

Media has reported on every detail of her life in space, from tying a Chinese knot, to browsing photo albums and doing forward rolls in the module.

It's expected that the three astronauts will spend three more days in space before returning to Earth on Friday. Their landing site is in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Experts said thunderstorms and hailstones, which are common in the summer on grasslands, are likely to affect the capsule's re-entry.

The local forecast predicted cloudy skies at the landing site on Friday.

Zhang Haidong, commander at the landing site, said drills have been conducted to prepare for the astronauts' return, with the goal of spotting the spacecraft's re-entry module in the shortest amount of time.

The last drill before their return is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Shenzhou IX spacecraft carrying the three astronauts blasted off on June 16 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China.

On Sunday, the three Chinese astronauts completed a manual docking between the spacecraft and the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module.

The success of the procedure shows that China has grasped space rendezvous and docking technologies and the country is fully capable of transporting humans and cargo to an orbiter in space, which is essential for the country's plan to build a space station around 2020.