This screen grab made from video released by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Chinese President Xi Jinping waving to technicians and officials at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center after speaking via video-link to astronauts on the Chinese sp Photograph:( AFP )
Xi spoke to the crew from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, thanking the astronauts for their 'hard work,' and sending 'sincere regards' on behalf of their fellow countrymen
President Xi Jinping on Wednesday lauded the work of three astronauts building China's first space station as opening "new horizons" in humanity's bid to explore the cosmos.
Xi spoke to the crew from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, thanking the astronauts for their "hard work," and sending "sincere regards" on behalf of their fellow countrymen.
"Building a space station is an important milestone for the spaceflight cause," Xi said from the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, speaking to the astronauts via video link.
The astronauts, who are documenting their first 24 hours aboard the Tianhe module, were seen napping during the afternoon in footage that aired on China's national broadcaster Central China Television (CCTV).
The astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, departed earth on Thursday and entered the unfinished Tianhe space station capsule that evening. They will live aboard the space station for a total of three months, testing its various systems and getting the module fully up and running.
The launch of China's first crewed mission in nearly five years is a matter of huge prestige as Beijing prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party on July 1 with a massive propaganda campaign.
China's space station, due to be finished by the end of 2022, will be the only alternative to the two-decade-old, US-led International Space Station (ISS), which may be retired in 2024.
The Chinese space agency is planning a total of 11 launches through to the end of next year, including three more crewed missions that will deliver two lab modules to expand the 70-tonne station, along with supplies and crew members.
(With inputs from agencies)