Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday 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 Sunday 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.

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 realizing the Chinese nation's space dream," Nie said.

The manned space mission has reflected the courage to defy hardship and explore, a spirit that would inspire the entire nation, Xi added.


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