President Xi Jinping encouraged Chinese astronauts on board the core module of China's space station to work closely to accomplish their tasks as he spoke with the crew members on Wednesday morning via a video link.
Speaking at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center in the capital's northwestern suburb of Changping, Xi said it is a delight to see that the three astronauts on board the module — Major General Nie Haisheng as the mission commander, Major General Liu Boming and Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo — are in good condition and working well.
The president, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, extended greetings on behalf of the top authorities and all Chinese people, saying that the people have been paying close attention to the astronauts' conditions.
"The space station program is a landmark in China's space cause, and will make pioneering contributions to humankind's peaceful development of outer space. And you are representatives of the numerous people striving to fulfill the country's space endeavors," the president told Nie and his crew members.
"We wish you a successful mission and a comfortable journey. We will wait for your triumphant return to Beijing."
Nie told Xi that this is his third spaceflight, and the living and work conditions on this mission are much better than on his previous ones.
"Now we, the Chinese astronauts, have a longtime orbital 'home' in space. Flying in the heavens far from the land, we feel very proud of our great Party and motherland," the veteran astronaut said. "We will follow your instructions and honor our duties and commitments."
Liu said this was his second space journey and he is honored by this significant mission.
"We will carry out two extravehicular activities, control mechanical arms and conduct a number of experimental operations. We will be focused on our tasks to make all of them successful," he said.
Before the televised conversation, Xi and a host of high-ranking officials watched livestreams of Nie as he practiced manipulating an extravehicular mechanical arm while Liu and Tang assembled an extravehicular suit.
A Chinese national flag and a Party flag are tied to the walls of the core module, named Tianhe, or "Harmony of Heavens".
Nie and his crew members entered Tianhe on Thursday afternoon after their Shenzhou XII spacecraft docked with the module earlier that day, becoming the first inhabitants of the module — the first and central component of the Chinese station, called Tiangong, or "Heavenly Palace". They are scheduled to stay there for three months to take on a wide variety of mission tasks.
Their spaceship was launched by a Long March 2F carrier rocket that blasted off on Thursday morning from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.
The nation's seventh manned space mission, Shenzhou XII is part of the Tiangong station program that aims to build a three-component station, weighing roughly 70 metric tons, in low-Earth orbit about 400 kilometers above the ground before the end of 2022.
In the near future, three manned missions and three robotic cargo flights will be conducted as part of the station's construction. Two large space labs will also be lifted to link up with the station.