Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping today hinted at a major expansion of China`s space programme, saying the country is poised for "bigger strides" in space exploration after the success of various manned missions.
"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 the space," Xi, via a video link, told the country`s three astronauts orbiting the earth in an experimental space lab Tiangong-1, 300 kilometres above the earth.
Xi spoke through the video call at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre which was telecast live by state-run CCTV.
Greeting the three astronauts who embarked on their space journey on June 11, he said, "you have worked and lived in space for 13 days. We all care about you very much".
The crew consists of Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping.
The three Chinese astronauts on the country`s fifth and longest manned space mission yesterday succeeded in manually docking their spacecraft with the orbiting experimental space lab.
The spacecraft `Shenzhou-10` (Divine Craft) successfully completed a manual docking procedure with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module, the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre had announced.
Wang, the country`s second woman astronaut, along with the two cosmonauts, is on the country`s longest space mission scheduled to be completed on June 26 after a fortnight-long mission.
Nie, commander of the crew, said they felt very well and were working as scheduled.
"We feel very proud to be able to contribute to realising the Chinese nation`s space dream," Nie said.
Wang, China`s first teacher in space said the crew members could rest seven to eight hours per day.
Speaking of Wang`s space lecture on June 20, Xi said it would play an important role in fostering students` interest in sciences and exploring the space.
About 60 million students from 80,000 schools watched the 40-minute live lecture when Wang lectured about motion in micro-gravity environments and the surface tension of liquid in space, supporting her lecture with various demonstrations.
The manned space mission has reflected the courage to defy hardship and explore, a spirit that would inspire the entire nation, Xi said.
The President spoke to the astronauts from the Beijing`s space centre and the conversation lasted over 10 minutes.
The astronauts were expected to land in a designated place in Inner Mongolia on Wednesday completing the second space mission to experiment with a temporary space lab which is orbiting the earth for the past 600 days.
It was expected to be discarded in the next few months.
China plans to build a Spacelab of its own by 2020 by which time the current international space station manned by Russian and US crew was expected to retire.