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Foreign astronauts complete sea survival training in China

By Zhao Lei in Yantai, Shandong | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-08-21 20:42

Two European astronauts took part in China's first sea survival training exercise, which concluded on Monday afternoon, marking the first time foreign astronauts have participated in spaceflight-related training in China.

The 17-day training session was held in waters off Yantai, Shandong province, by the China Manned Space Agency in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport's Beihai Rescue Bureau.

Sixteen Chinese astronaut — including Yang Liwei, the first Chinese citizen in space, and Jing Haipeng, the first Chinese astronaut to enter space three times — as well as Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy and Germany's Matthias Maurer, both from the European Space Agency, were divided into six teams in the training session.

The exercise was designed to improve astronauts' sea survival, decision-making and emergency response capabilities and to boost their team spirit and collaboration capacity, according to a news release from the Chinese agency.

Each team had three members — one commander and two operators. At the beginning of the training, team members put on space suits and entered a mock re-entry capsule, which was taken out to sea on a ship and winched onto the water's surface.

Once at sea, they swapped their space suits for special uniforms designed for sea survival that can resist cold and provide extra buoyancy before leaving the re-entry capsule and boarding inflatable boats. After receiving a signal, a helicopter or rescue ship approached the boats to pick them up.

On Monday, the last team — Liu Wang, a member of the Shenzhou IX mission in 2012, Chen Dong, who stayed in space for more than one month during the Shenzhou XI/Tiangong II mission, and Cristoforetti, who worked and lived on the International Space Station for almost 200 days — completed their training, marking the end of the session.

China's new astronauts will go through the same training before they undertake spaceflight, the China Manned Space Agency said.

During the training, the astronauts learned methods and procedures of getting out of the re-entry capsule while at sea, familiarized themselves with sea survival skills and rescue preparation, and strengthened their ability to cooperate with each other and rescuers, the Chinese agency said.

Huang Weifen, deputy research chief of the Astronaut Center of China, said the European astronauts' participation in the training helped the Chinese team to explore methods and gain experience of international cooperation in manned space activities.

The China Manned Space Agency and European Space Agency signed an agreement in May 2015 to boost collaboration in manned space.

Contact the writer at zhaolei@chinadaily.com.cn


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