China Anticipates Safe Space Flight and Manned Docking
    2012-06-14 09:12:54         Web Editor: Mao

As China prepares to carry out another manned space flight and the country's first manned docking this week, much attention has been on the safety of the Shenzhou-9 mission.

As CRI's Su Yi reports from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the challenges faced by the mission may come from the ground rather than space.

Cui Jijun, commander-in-chief of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, says at least four firsts are going to pose challenges to the mission.

"It is our first manned docking practice. It is the first time that astronauts will enter the Tiangong space laboratory. It is the first time that we have included female astronauts in our space missions. And it is also the first time that our astronauts will spend 10 days in space."

Three astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-9 ĘC two men and one woman ĘC are due to dock with and then work inside Tiangong-1 for two weeks.

NASA space scientist Mark Lee says the mission could be a serious test of the design of the two space vehicles.

"The physical requirements for astronauts is very tough in China, and could be one of the toughest in the world. China is in the rapid development stage, and there are many uncertainties in space. Although our science and technology is developing, the related aeronautical facilities are not perfect, and thus our astronauts need to deal with all kinds of harsh conditions in space."

Designers of the Shenzhou spacecraft say there is not much difference between Shenzhou-9 and its predecessor, Shenzhou-8, that conducted a successful unmanned space docking with the experimental lab last year.

According to the engineers with China's space program, the launch itself could be a challenge because this is the first time a Chinese space launch has taken place in the summer heat.

Lu Jinrong, chief engineer of the satellite launch center, says they have taken several measures to cool the launch pad.

"We try to keep the environment on the launch pad more favorable by blowing cool air into the rocket dome to meet the requirements of temperature and humidity."

Engineers will also cool down the rocket propellant to keep its temperature at around 15 degrees Celsius before the launch.

Commander-in-chief of the launch center Cui Jijun says the astronauts' health and safety is the key to the success of the mission.

"The astronauts' safety is the utmost important thing in manned missions. We will take responsibility for the mission, the astronauts and the property of the country. We will improve the reliability of anything related to the success of the mission, and anything related to the safety of the crew."

The docking experiment is part of a larger goal to establish a Chinese space station by 2020.

Prior to that, China may have to practice several times to perfect its docking techniques, and improve its space life support technologies.

For CRI, I'm Su Yi reporting from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.


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