Xi vows bigger strides in space exploration


China’s President Xi Jinping on Monday spoke by satellite video phone link to three Chinese astronauts aboard the Tiangong 1 space station.

“The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger. With the development of space programmes, the Chinese people will take bigger strides to explore further into space,” said Xi during his conversation with the astronauts.

Several minutes of Xi’s conversation with Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and China’s second female astronaut, Wang Yaping, was broadcast on state broadcaster, CCTV.

His remarks come as China’s human space programme enters its second decade, after going from a simple manned flight to space lab link-ups in a series of methodically timed steps in just 10 years.

China launched its first crewed mission in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the US to achieve that feat.

The current Shenzhou 10 mission is the second manned trip to the Tiangong 1 that was launched in 2011.

The space station is due to be replaced by the larger, three-module permanent station, Tiangong 2, seven years from now.

The future station will weigh about 60 tons, slightly smaller than NASA’s Skylab of the 1970s and about one-sixth the size of the 16-nation International Space Station.

China was barred from participating in the International Space Station, largely on objections from the United States over political differences and the Chinese programme’s close links with the military.

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