“Confidence” a prime criterion for astronauts: Shenzhou 7 crew

Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Issue 552, Page 1 – 2
Word count: 1185
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Apart from having physical and psychological qualities, Macau students were told “confidence” was the most important criterion for becoming an astronaut, said the crew of China’s Shenzhou 7 manned space project in their first public event in Macau yesterday.

Astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng arrived in the SAR for their three-day visit following Hong Kong and were led by Zhang Jianqi, the deputy chief of commander of China’s manned space missions and head of delegation.

Colonel Zhai Zhigang, was also the first Chinese citizen to perform a spacewalk for 19 minutes and 35 seconds on September 27, making China the third nation to successfully carry out an extra vehicular activity (EVA) in Earth orbit.

The Shenzhou 7 delegation made their first official public appearance in the afternoon at the Macau Tower where they shared feelings and experience of achieving a milestone for their country’s space technology and exploration with hundreds of local college students, government officials and science and technology personnel.

Colonel Zhai, the leader of the three man crew on board the Shenzhou 7 for China’s third manned space mission, said that he was proud to become the person who “had flown to the highest and walked for the fastest” of China.

Meanwhile, Colonel Liu Boming talked about the “memorable moments” during the 68-hour flight in space.

He recalled that when the airlock was opened for Colonel Zhai to conduct the maiden spacewalk, a fire alert in the orbit was received.

The astronaut said his leader did not hesitate but kept moving out from the spacecraft and finally waved the Chinese national flag.

“Even we couldn’t make our way home, we still needed to let our national flag appear in space at least just for a short period of time,” Colonel Liu said.

Also, Colonel Jing said they only slept and ate twice in the spacecraft because of the “large amount of works and the high standards set”.

“What made my mission most unforgettable was the care my two mates gave me, even though it was just a bowl of hot rice and sausages,” he added.

In answering questions posed from the floor, Colonel Zhai was asked what kept him going on after missing two chances of being selected to go into space in the 2003 Shenzhou 5 and the 2005 Shenzhou 6 manned space missions.

“Although I was only in the reserve, it was still an achievement I attained by contributing my efforts. I wasn’t upset or disappointed, as the training I received was like conducting the actual mission, I still felt very honoured,” Colonel Zhai told the University of Macau student.

A Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) student, asked what, as a student, needed to be done in order to become an astronaut.

Colonel Liu said that “confidence” was the foremost criterion, or otherwise no matter how strong a person’s physical and psychological quality was, “he would easily give up when coming across failures”.

“So first you have to train up your body, be a critical thinker, have a dream but also have faith in yourself,” he added.

In addition, Colonel Jing said although he could not go into space with Shenzhou 5 or Shenzhou 6, he never gave up but kept working towards his dream.

“If we want to see the most beautiful rainbow in the sky, we must have to continue climbing the mountain until we reach our goal,” he said.

Deputy Chief of commander of China’s manned space missions and head of delegation, Zhang Jianqi, in respond to the question of when China would have female astronauts, said professions were currently setting out selection proposals and criteria.

“Since after Yang Liwei returned from space in 2003, the women’s groups have been strongly requesting for female astronauts,” Mr Zhang said.

However, he said that a vacuum chamber only took up six square metres and thus it would be “very cramped” for a three-man crew.

“As long as the women can determine their goals and train up their bodies, when the space technology is further advanced I believe there must be a day that they can on board a spacecraft,” Mr Zhang said.

On the other hand, Secretary for Transport and Public Works and representative of the chairman of the Macau Science and Technology Council, Lau Si Io, said in the opening speech that the launch of the Shenzhou 5 and the Shenzhou 6 marked an “important cornerstone” for China’s space exploration and “subsequent improvements and breakthroughs in the manned space technology”.

“The complete success of the launch of the Shenzhou 7 not only gained China a foothold in the field of high technology but greatly enhanced out national defence capabilities, national pride and national solidarity,” Lau said.

“Since the establishment of the Macau SAR, the government has attached great importance to science development and innovation, which establishes the legal position of science and technology in Macau,” he added.

Lau also said that the SAR government had given high priority to the cultivation of science capability of Macau residents and “especially teenagers”.

“We will continue to invest more resources in propelling science popularisation in the city in various ways,” he said.

According to the Secretary, the sharing session yesterday would be a “precious opportunity” for the promotion of science and would deepen local people’s understanding of China’s development of astronauts.

“Our space workers’ dedication and arduous efforts to fulfil our nation’s dream of a space mission, their team spirit, patriotism, and aspirations will inspire us forever,” he said.

“Their indomitable and tenacious spirit will forever serve as an example to forthcoming generations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Zhang Jianqi expressed his gratitude to Macau’s invitation for the delegation in his speech, and also gave thanks for the support of the Macau people which he said had contributed to their success in the Shenzhou 7 project.

Before the hour and a half event concluded, the delegation and the Macau government officials exchanged souvenirs.

Afterwards, the delegation attended the welcoming dinner hosted by the SAR government at the government headquarters where they met with Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah.

The astronauts will today visit the Ruins of St Paul’s, Macau Museum and the Macau Tower in the morning, which will be followed by a welcoming ceremony by the People’s Liberation Army Macau Garrison and a sharing workshop with local students.

A celebration party organised by the SAR government will also be held at 8pm tonight in the Macau Forum.

The delegation will leave Macau tomorrow morning after giving an interview to media and a farewell to the Chief Executive.

The Shenzhou 7 spacecraft was launched on September 25 by a Long March 2F rocket which blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the deserts of north western Gansu Province at 9.10pm for a 68-hour flight.

On September 28 at 5.37 pm, the crew of three astronauts landed safety in Siziwang Banner in central Inner Mongolia after completing China’s third human space flight mission.

The extra vehicular activity conducted during the flight made China the third country, after Russia and the US, to have carried out a spacewalk.

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