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Sun Jiadong, from Dong Fang Hong to Chang-E
    2008-09-25 17:14:48     CRIENGLISH.com

As China prepares for its first spacewalk, people are paying homage to the older generation of the country's aerospace industry, especially those who work behind the scene. Today our reporter Xiaoyu tells us about Sun Jiadong, chief designer of China's first moon exploration project.

This old song, "Dong Fang Hong" or "The East Is Red" in English, was heard all over China on April 24, 1970, as the country's first satellite, Dong Fang Hong I, broadcast it from space. 41-year-old Sun Jiadong was the chief designer of the satellite.

It was an emotional time for Sun Jiadong, one of tremendous stress and a constant fear of failing.

"I was more than nervous because unexpected problems always occurred. It was really dangerous if we couldn't handle them, you know. The electronics aboard the satellite were so sophisticated, and we faced new problems every minute before the launch."

Dong Fang Hong I satellite [Photo source: sina.com]

Sun Jiadong was born in a small county in northeastern China's Liaoning province in 1929. After graduating from Harbin Institute of Technology, he was sent to the former Soviet Union for further study.

He recalls an awkward experience when he and his companions were taking the subway for the first time in Moscow.

"We entered the subway station, the train arrived and doors opened. We all tried to be modest and polite, asking others to board first. After a while, the door shut by itself without anyone touching it! We were flabbergasted the doors closed automatically!"

Sun Jiadong realized the huge gap between his country and the rest of the world. During his seven years in N.E. Zhukovski Central Aerodynamic Institute, Sun Jiadong studied hard and graduated with its highest honor, a gold medal named after the former leader Josef Stalin, which is not usually awarded to foreign students.

Sun Jiadong returned to China and worked for a research institute in the Ministry of Defense, until Qian Xuesen, the father of Chinese rocket science, recommended him for the Dong Fang Hong satellite program. Sun Jiadong was just 37 at the time. He figured out solutions to many problems. Only one was too difficult to handle.

"Workers etched Chairman Mao's images on the surfaces of many components, and made them as big and elaborate as possible. In that special environment, everyone did that. With aerospace products, this is extremely dangerous; otherwise, it will cause deadly problems due to uneven heating. But it was not easy to point it out."

Sun Jiadong gained enough courage to tell the truth and won the support of then Premier Zhou Enlai. The problem was resolved, and the melody of Dong Fang Hong was soon playing from the orbiting satellite.

Sun Jiadong speaking at the meeting [Photo source: cri.com]

In January 2004, China's lunar exploration project gained approval as a gateway to the country's deep space exploration hopes. Sun Jiadong was once again in charge of the team. After three years of work, China's first lunar probe, Chang-e I, launched successfully, marking another milestone in China's aerospace history.

Another aerospace insider, Ouyang Ziyuan, has nothing but praise for Sun Jiadong.

"He always says to me, 'scientists see simple things in complicated ways. An engineer's task is to simplify complicated problems and find solutions.' He's amazing, and I admire him."

Sun Jiadong is now 79 years old and continues to devote his efforts to China's space program, especially the lunar exploration project.

For Beyond Beijing, this is Xiaoyu.




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