Astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang gears up for mission

Updated: 2013-06-10 20:51


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Astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang gears up for mission

Zhang Xiaoguang gestures during training, April 27, 2013. [Photo/Xinhua] 

JIUQUAN - Zhang Xiaoguang's aspirations to travel in space would never have been able to be fulfilled had a classmate failed to give him a hand 28 years ago.

In 1985, Zhang missed his bus for a pilot recruitment fair held in Jinzhou City in northeast China. As he was about to return to his rural home, a classmate, who was also late for the bus, helped him to catch a train.

He was an outstanding pilot before being trained as China's first batch of astronauts in January 1998. He owns a record of 1,000 hours of safe flying.

Zhang, of the Manchu ethnic group, is one of the three-member crew in the upcoming Shenzhou-10 manned spacecraft mission, during which he will assist the commander to accomplish the spacecraft's manual docking with space module Tiangong-1.

Meeting the media on Monday afternoon, 47-year-old Zhang said he had experienced harvest and joy, as well as difficulties and adversities in chasing his space dream.

"Opportunities always come to those who never give up," said Zhang, who is a member of the astronaut brigade of the People's Liberation Army and holds the rank of a senior colonel.

Prior to the Shenzhou-10 mission, China has successfully sent eight astronauts into space. Zhang had applied for astronaut selection of previous missions but failed to be enlisted.

"If success is part of our life, so are setbacks. If those who had never failed are winners, so are those who always keep on trying," Zhang said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"Zhang is perseverant," said Nie Haisheng, an experienced male astronaut who was part of the Shenzhou-6 mission and now is the commander of the Shenzhou-10 mission crew.

To Wang Yaping, the only female astronaut in the upcoming mission, Zhang strikes her as being "passionate, cheerful and fond of making jokes."

Wang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the mission, said Zhang would keep on practicing and improving his skills whenever he failed to pass tests.

For example, to ensure the accuracy of his operations in space, Zhang has undergone 2,000 rehearsals on the ground.

Another job that Zhang will be doing in space is to carry the camera and record a lecture, which will be given by his teammate Wang to middle and elementary school students in China.

Zhang said his camera will not only be used for recording the lecture, but also their 15-day life in space.

"When I'm back home, I will tell my tale in space to my family, friends and my comrades-in-arms who have a dream to fulfil in space," he said.