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Experienced hand to lead space mission

By Xin Dingding and Jin Haixing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-11 02:07

Two more Chinese astronauts will realize their dream of going to space under the guidance of a veteran astronaut in the Shenzhou-X mission on Tuesday.

Nie Haisheng, 49, who was on the Shenzhou-VI mission in 2005, will lead astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping in China's fifth manned space mission, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space program at a news conference on Monday.

They will conduct multiple scientific and technical experiments in orbit and give China's first class to schoolchildren from space, Wu said.

Nie will command the Shenzhou-X spacecraft; Wang, 33, will give the lecture; and Zhang, 47, will be the "cameraman" and Nie's backup.

Wang, the second Chinese woman to go to space, will be the first Chinese born in the 1980s to orbit Earth.

Born in 1980, Wang is from a rural family in Yantai, Shandong province. She was recruited into the People's Liberation Army in 1997, and became a member of the second group of Chinese astronauts in 2010. She holds the rank of major.

Earlier media reports quoted the principal of her primary school as saying that she was good at sports, especially long-distance running.

Media reported that she learned to fly at an air force institute in Jilin province and later served in the air force in Wuhan, Hubei province. She was known for being capable of piloting four types of airplanes and a record of 1,600 hours of safe flying time.

Before joining the astronaut trainee team in 2010, she participated in the rescue and relief mission for the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and did weather monitoring work during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

She is married and has a child, according to media reports.

Wang told media on Monday that she likes music and photography. She also enjoys playing basketball and traveling.

"I look forward to going to space and will share with you everything I see during this trip," she said.

The two male astronauts on the mission are both in their 40s and were recruited in 1998 with the first group of 15 male Chinese astronaut trainees.

Nie Haisheng, who spent more than five days onboard the Shenzhou-VI eight years ago, is expected to become the Chinese astronaut with the most time in space after this mission.

He was recruited by the People's Liberation Army in June 1983. He holds the rank of major general and is a premium astronaut of the PLA.

Zhang Xiaoguang, of the Manchu ethnic group, comes from Jinzhou, Liaoning province. He holds the rank of senior colonel.

Zhang joined the army in June 1985. Before trained as an astronaut, he was a senior pilot, and he has 1,000 hours of safe flying time.

It took him 15 years to be chosen as a space mission crew member.

On Monday, he told media that he had encountered setbacks in past years, but never gave up his dream.

"Only those who never give up will succeed," he said.

After this 15-day mission, the number of Chinese astronauts who have been to space will increase from eight to 10, including two women.

According to spokeswoman Wu, all three astronauts in this mission are capable of conducting manual docking between the Shenzhou-X spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 space module.

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