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Astronaut celebrates 50th birthday in space

By Cheng Yingqi | China Daily | Updated: 2016-10-25 07:42

Jing Haipeng, commander of the Shenzhou XI space mission, celebrated his 50th birthday aboard Tiangong II on Monday, breaking yet another record.

He is already the Chinese astronaut with the most hours spent in space and the only one to have taken part in three missions.

Turning 50 years old means he is also the nation's oldest astronaut in service.

Organizations and individuals sent birthday greetings to Jing via Sina Weibo.

Astronaut celebrates 50th birthday in space

"Because of him, we no longer have to admire Swedish (table tennis) player Jan-Ove Waldner, US boxer Evander Holyfield or tennis great Martina Navratilova. Because of him, we no longer sigh over a lack of Chinese heroes," read a post on the account of the People's Liberation Army Navy.

Some netizens asked questions about the possibility of sending a cake into space or lighting candles.

"The best way to serve the country, as an astronaut, is to take on more missions; to use our own hands to implement the wisdom, ideas and concept of scientists; to bring back useful data; and to conduct scientific experiments that will benefit mankind," Jing was quoted as saying by the People's Daily website.

Xinhua News Agency asked children to submit paintings via the internet as a gift for the astronaut.

Jing, together with his colleague, Chen Dong, were launched into space onboard Shenzhou XI on Oct 17 and docked with the Tiangong II space laboratory on Oct 19.

Jing joined the PLA in 1985 and trained as a pilot before being selected for China's astronaut program in 1998.

The current mission is Jing's third in space. Previously, he spent 68 hours aboard Shenzhou VII in 2008 and 13 days on Shenzhou IX in 2012.

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