Beijing: Greeting the astronauts aboard the spacecraft over satellite phone, Chinese President Hu Jintao complemented them for the successful manual docking of two space modules saying, saying their feat meant China has grasped the technology to setup permanent space station by 2020.
"The success of the procedure shows that China has completely 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 plans to build a space station around 2020," state run CCTV quoted Hu as telling the astronauts.
The three astronauts, including the country's first woman cosmonaut, Liu Yang, flew into space on Shenzhou-9 on June 16. They first docked with Tiangong-1 orbiter using automatic procedure, later manually docked the two which space scientists say is critical during emergencies.
Extending his greetings, Hu told the astronauts that "you have spent nearly 10 days in space, we care about you" and inquired how they were doing.
In his four minute talk, Hu praised and thanked the astronauts for their excellent performance in China's first manual docking mission, which showcased the country's full command of space docking technologies.
"We and your families are looking forward to your successful and safe return," he added.
The three are currently gearing up to return on June 29 completing a two week stay in space, the longest by Chinese astronauts.
They were expected to land in inner Mongolia.
Hu accompanied by other ruling Communist Party leaders today drove down to the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and spoke with astronauts through satellite phone.
Chinese official media has hailed the space docking as well as the manned submersible Jiaolong reaching the depth of 7000 meters in Pacific Ocean, setting a new record few days ago, as major achievements which would put the country in league with US and Russia.
First Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 14:56