Vet­eran astro­naut soars to new heights

Jing Haipeng to en­ter or­bit for record third time on Shen­zhou XI mis­sion

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By CHENMENGWEI chenmengwei@chi­

Jing Haipeng will be­come China’s most ex­pe­ri­enced astro­naut when he takes off aboard the Shen­zhou XI space­craft on Mon­day morn­ing.

The month­long mis­sion to dock with the Taigong II space lab­o­ra­tory will mark the 49-year-old’s third time in space, the most by any Chi­nese astro­naut.

“Al­though the job is chal­leng­ing, risky and dan­ger­ous, there is noth­ing else I’d rather do,” Jing, who is the com­man­der of the mis­sion, told re­porters at a news brief­ing on Sun­day.

For this mis­sion, “we have im­proved our abil­ity to deal with emer­gen­cies, first aid and space ex­per­i­ments”, he added.

He will be ac­com­pa­nied by Chen Dong, 37, who is taking part in his first mis­sion.

Jing pre­vi­ously flew on Shen­zhou VII in 2008 and Shen­zhou IX in 2012. His new mis­sion will take him past the only other Chi­nese astro­naut who has gone into space more than once, Nie Haisheng, who trav­eled on Shen­zhou VI in 2005 and Shen­zhou X in 2013.

Both men, as well as Yang Li­wei, China’s first man in space, rep­re­sent the first gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese as­tro­nauts, mostly born in the 1960s. They were of­fi­cially rec­og­nized as as­tro­nauts in 1998.

How­ever, like any in­dus­try, new blood is cru­cial to en­sure progress, and in 2010 a sec­ond gen­er­a­tion was cho­sen. Among them was Chen, who will be the first man from this group to make it into space.

“I used to watch Jing on tele­vi­sion and he al­ways seemed so far away. But when I met him in per­son, my wor­ries and anx­i­eties dis­ap­peared ,” Chen said. “We have sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences and share many in­ter­ests.

“Now that we’ve been to­gether for more than 10 hours a day, we can un­der­stand each other with­out ut­ter­ing a word. He points a fin­ger, I give a thumb, and we know ex­actly what to do.”

Chen, from He­nan prov­ince, is mar­ried and has twin sons. Jing has a son named Yufei, which trans­lates as “fly­ing into the uni­verse”, who was born in 1997.

“I will trea­sure ev­ery mo­ment in space and en­sure that I record my ex­pe­ri­ence in my diary and en­joy the out-of-this-world scenery,” Chen said.

The as­tro­nauts will con­duct dozens of ex­per­i­ments on Taigong II, more than any pre­vi­ous mis­sion, in part be­cause of the un­prece­dented length of the as­sign­ment. Jing would not re­veal the ex­act num­ber, but he said tests would in­clude scans of in­ter­nal or­gans.

“I spoke with a doc­tor and he told me you need at least a year of train­ing be­fore you can con­duct a B-scan on a pa­tient,” he said, re­fer­ring to a tech­nique in which struc­tures of the body are vi­su­al­ized by record­ing echoes of ul­tra­sonic waves di­rected into tis­sue. “We were trained for less than six months, and we’re about to do it on our own bod­ies — with no grav­ity.”

The re­sult­ing im­ages and data will be sent back to head­quar­ters for ex­perts to an­a­lyze, he said, adding that the pur­pose is to see how the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem is af­fected in a zero-grav­ity en­vi­ron­ment.”

To blow off steam, 8 to 10pm ev­ery day will be “happy hour” on the space­craft, when Jing and Chen will be able to watch movies and lis­ten to mu­sic. The two as­tro­nauts will also be able to make video calls home to their fam­i­lies.

Jing said he has stored dozens of gi­ga­bytes of mu­sic to take with him, al­though he pre­ferred to keep his playlist se­cret.

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