BEIJING: Two Chinese astronauts entered the country’s new orbiting space laboratory for the first time on Wednesday, state media reported, as Beijing works towards having its own space station.
Mission commander Jing Haipeng was first to float into the Tiangong-2 (“Heavenly Palace”) lab, the official Xinhua news agency said, followed by Chen Dong.
The pair “extended greetings to all the people of the nation”, it said.
Their Shenzhou-11 (“Divine Vessel”) mission is scheduled to see them stay on board for 30 days — the longest stay thus far by Chinese astronauts — carrying out experiments before returning to Earth.
At the same time, further deep in space, some 496 million km away from Earth, the joint Europe and Russian ExoMars mission has send down a 600 kg tiny gas-sniffing lander on to the surface of Mars to roam the hostile Martian surface in search of gases possibly excreted by living organisms, however small or primitive, to determine if life ever existed on Mars.
The first maneuver starts at 1304 GMT on Wednesday.