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Jiuquan (XNA) Jun 11, 2013
Eight years after his first space mission, Nie Haisheng is now ready to take a second assignment.
China's manned space program spokeswoman Wu Ping announced Monday that the 48-year-old Nie is not only the commander of the Shenzhou-10 mission, but also responsible for manually docking the spacecraft with Tiangong-1 module in orbit, which is unprecedented for a Chinese astronaut in one mission.
In September 2005, copilot Nie spent his 41st birthday in lunar orbit during China's second manned space mission, Shenzhou-6. Now the astronaut, who holds the rank of Major General, is waiting for his next mission.
"This is my job and duty. It is an honor for me no matter I am a soldier or a general," Nie told Xinhua.
"As long as I am mission-capable, I will get myself prepared for space missions," he said.
Since Nie was recruited by China's manned space program 15 years ago, he has never stopped technical and physical training.
Medical exam results showed that Nie has had little bone loss in the past eight years and his cardio-pulmonary and cardio-vascular conditions are still above normal levels.
Nie has been selected as a participant of all previous manned space missions, as prime or backup crew. The imminent Shenzhou-10 mission makes him China's eldest astronaut to carry out a space mission.
When astronaut Liu Wang conducted the manual space docking in the Shenzhou-9 mission last year, Nie, as a backup crew member, provided Liu with technical support on the ground.
Talking about the space docking for this mission, Nie said there will be challenges but he has confidence since "we have experienced severe training."
Before the Shenzhou-10 mission, Nie has conducted more than 2,000 ground simulations and achieved 100 percent accuracy in manual docking.
"He is strict with himself," female astronaut Wang Yaping for Shenzhou-10 mission said. "With him, we have nothing to worry about."
Before the Shenzhou-10 mission, China's astronaut center gave them special psychological training to test their tacit understanding and cooperation.
The training was successful and proved that the crew of the Shenzhou-10 mission have very good tacit understanding, which allows each of them to know what the others will do without talking.
"Through a long time of training together, we can understand each other's intention with only a gesture or eye contact when we jointly conduct the manual docking simulation," Nie said.
According to the spokeswoman, the Shenzhou-10 astronauts will orbit the earth for 15 days, the longest time in the country's manned space program.
Nie spent 115 hours in the Shenzhou-6 mission. He will become the astronaut with the most hours in space in China upon the completion of the Shenzhou-10 mission.
"As long as I am qualified and needed, I hope that I can fly to China's space station in the future," Nie said.
Currently, astronaut Jing Haipeng holds the record of most hours in space in China, with his participation to the 68-hour Shenzhou-7 and 13-day Shenzhou-9 missions.
According to a three-phase manned space program, China will construct a permanent space station in low earth orbit around 2020.
Source: Xinhua News Agency
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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