China's Xi holds video call with astronauts

The video call was made at around 9:30 a.m. Beijing time (0840 GMT) and broadcast live on state broadcaster CCTV. Xi spoke to the crew from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, thanking the astronauts for their "hard work," and sending "sincere regards" on behalf of their fellow countrymen.

The astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, departed earth on Thursday (June 17) and entered the unfinished Tianhe space station capsule that evening. They will live aboard for the space station for a total of three months, testing its various systems and getting the module fully up and running.

China's space station, due to be finished by end-2022, will be the only alternative to the two-decade-old, U.S.-led International Space Station (ISS), which may be retired in 2024.

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