HK extends welcome to astronauts

Updated: 2012-08-11 07:46

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong (China Daily)

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The three astronauts who accomplished the space docking and rendezvous mission on Tiangong 1/Shenzhou IX touched down in Hong Kong on Friday to a hero's welcome at the beginning of a four-day goodwill tour.

They were greeted by the cheers of about 200 local students, who waved Chinese national flags as the honored guests stepped into the arrival hall at Hong Kong International Airport. Students handed the astronauts floral bouquets, while the visitors happily signed autographs for the young people who lined up along their way.

HK extends welcome to astronauts

Three astronauts from China's first manual space docking mission received a rowdy welcome as they arrived in Hong Kong on Friday for a four-day charm offensive visit. They are expected to meet students and other citizens. Photo by Edmond Tang / China Daily

Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman in space, along with veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng and their crewmate Liu Wang, arrived at the airport before noon on Friday as part of a 40-member delegation.

"Da ga ho" ("Hello, everyone"), Jing greeted the press in Cantonese, expressing warm gratitude for the close attention the people and the media gave the mission in June.

"We are very glad to meet the people of Hong Kong face-to-face. We are also very willing to share our exceptionally fantastic experiences and feelings," he said.

There will be ample opportunities to share China's achievement in the coming days. Local primary and secondary school students, as well as university students, will get a chance to talk to the astronauts at two weekend seminars.

There are also the 2,000 lucky ticket holders, some of whom stood in lines overnight to obtain free tickets to Saturday's special program, "Hong Kong Welcomes the Delegation of the Shenzhou IX Manned Spaceflight Mission Variety Show."

Prominent women from Hong Kong will hold a tea gathering on Monday as a special tribute to Liu Yang.

The astronauts showed their appreciation for the welcome. Jing revealed that while this was only his second official post-mission tour since 2008, it was actually his third visit to Hong Kong.

"I spent my vacation in Hong Kong with my wife and son in 2010. Before I headed off to Hong Kong this morning, they came forward to ask me, when I would bring them to Hong Kong again, because they like Hong Kong so much," he said.

His more subtle crewmate, Liu Wang, had not been to the city previously, but said he managed to see its famous night lights from high above the Earth during the 13-day space mission.

"The overcast skies over Hong Kong regrettably kept the picture out of sight during those days. But at night, (it was) exceptionally beautiful. The gorgeous lights of Hong Kong are dazzling from space," Liu Wang recalled.

His family was excited by Hong Kong for a different reason. His wife gave him an exhaustive shopping list, which he carried in his briefcase. "I hope to make some time for a lot of shopping and make some real contributions to Hong Kong's prosperity," he said.

Liu Yang said she had been infused with energy and confidence while completing her tasks in space. She also expressed confidence that women will play an integral part in the nation's future space missions.

Will the people of Hong Kong fly to space one day? Niu Hongguang, the delegation leader and deputy commander-in-chief of the manned space program, said that since the space program has moved into its next stage, scientists from Hong Kong and the rest of the world will be offered the opportunity to conduct studies in Chinese spaceships.