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Nie Haisheng: chief commander of Shenzhou-10

06-10-2013 15:45 BJT Special Report: China Dream of Space Exploration |

Nie Haisheng will be the chief commander of the Shenzhou-10 space crew. It will be his second time in space after also participating in the Shenzhou-6 mission. In an interview with CCTV, Nie told us what makes this mission different, and shared some personal thoughts about his fellow crew members.

Shenzhou-10 will be China's fifth manned mission to space and will last 12 days. It will transport personnel and cargo to and from the Tiangong-1 space lab module. Like the previous Shenzhou-9 mission, it will perform a manned docking with the space station. But unlike the previous mission, Nie says astronauts will have more time to enjoy their time in space.

"We'll have a lot more free time in our schedules than during the Shenzhou-9 mission. On Shenzhou-9, there was a 24-hour rotation policy, which meant the crew had to work 24 hours a day. But this time, we can sleep during the night, and after finishing our daily duties, we'll have time to relax and do things, like appreciate the beautiful view of space and listen to some music," Nie said.

One of Shenzhou-10's main tasks will be to dock with the Tiangong-1 module. To prepare, Nie has practiced the docking almost 2,000 times. Even for a top astronaut, the repetitive training can become tiresome. But according to Nie, his crewmate Zhang Xiaoguang has shown the best mental focus so far.

"For many years, he has repeated the training over and over, and has never given up. He is the kind of man that never quits until his goal is achieved," Nie said.

Nie also had high praise for his other crewmate, Wang Yaping. "Wang Yaping works very hard. She has only been with us for three years, but just after her second year here, she was already qualified to conduct the mission. That would be impossible without her hard work. She pays more attention to the details of her work."

During their mission, the three astronauts will also speak to a group of students via a video feed. The success of all their mission tasks will depend on the three astronauts' teamwork. Nie said they had all learned to work well together over time.

"Zhang Xiaoguang is very extroverted and warm-hearted. We’ve worked and lived together for 15 years. We have been sharing our thoughts on almost everything. He likes to make jokes, and he makes everyone happy. Wang Yaping is a diligent astronaut. Judging from our experience training together, I think she will do very well in her job," Nie said.

Nie Haisheng was born in a small village in Zaoyang City, in central China’s Hubei province. He was the sixth of ten children in his family. Growing up, Nie’s family was so poor that he only finished middle school with help from his teacher and neighbors.

"I was in second year of junior high school when my father died. My family was so poor, I was forced to stop school and work in order to earn money. My teacher visited my family many times to try and persuade me to return. Finally, I went back to school. I wouldn’t have what I have now without my teacher. That was the most important turning point of my life," he said.

"The second turning point was after I graduated from high school and joined the army to be a pilot. That was the first step in my career path. And the third turning point was passing the physical test for astronauts in 1996, which finally offered me the opportunity to become an astronaut."

After completing his first space flight on Shenzhou-6, Nie was asked whether he hoped to set the record for the longest time in space. "Maybe I will hold that record for a while, but it will soon be broken by other newcomers," he said. Nie’s words seem to be coming true, as the Chinese space program continues to develop rapidly, with more Chinese astronauts looking to discover the mysteries of outer space.

Editor:James |Source:

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