China's president talks to orbiting astronauts

June 24, 2013 at 7:27 PM

BEIJING, June 24 (UPI) -- China's president has spoken with three astronauts conducting scientific tests in the country's orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, officials said.

President Xi Jinping came to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center Monday to offer greetings to the three astronauts, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

They had re-entered the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module from their Shanzhou-10 spacecraft Sunday after successfully completing a separation and manual docking exercise.

Launched June 11 from northwest China's Gobi desert, the Shenzhou-10 successfully completed an automated docking procedure with the Tiangong-1 June 13.

In the separation and re-docking exercise, astronaut Nie Haisheng piloted the spacecraft while the other two crew members, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, monitored instruments.

The Tiangong-1 space lab, which has been in orbit for more than 600 days, is considered the first step in building a permanent Chinese space station by 2020.

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