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No space for China's stay-at-home taikonauts
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Jan 23, 2018

illustration only

On an evening in November 2016, Deng Qingming went home to find his wife and his daughter had prepared a lavish spread of his favorite dishes and wine. He ran to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and, concealed by the sound of running water, cried like a baby.

Deng is a taikonaut who has never been to space. He was backup to commander Jing Haipeng in Shenzhou-11 mission.

He dried his face and returned to the table, where his wife raised her glass and toasted him: "You are my hero."

Deng, 52, was a backup crew member for both Shenzhou-10 and Shenzhou-11 missions. Of China's first batch of 14 trainees for the space program, six never made it onto the crew, including Deng.

Five of his peers retired in 2014 without a space flight, making Deng the last man standing, with his feet on the ground.

This month Taikonaut Corps of People's Liberation Army celebrates its 20th anniversary. Over the past two decades, 21 taikonauts were selected from the ranks of air force pilots. They have completed six missions, conducted over 100 experiments in space and orbited the earth for a total 68 days and nights.

"Sometimes I ask myself, isn't it my duty to fly into space? If I can't fly, how can I call myself a taikonaut?" Deng says.

When these existential crises come upon him, Deng practices calligraphy, which calms him.

"I'm always ready for a mission," he says, still dreaming after 20 years.

"They trained as hard as we did, and they are as good as we are. They just didn't have the opportunity," says Jing Haipeng, who has flown on three missions - Shenzhou-7, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-11.

"They spent their best years preparing and waiting. They have lived up to their oath they took when joining the career. They are the heroes of our country, too!" he says.

Source: Xinhua News

Backgrounder: China's six manned space missions
Beijing (XNA) Jan 23, 2018
Since the establishment of the Taikonaut Corps of the People's Liberation Army in 1998, Chinese taikonauts have completed six manned spaceflights, conducted over 100 scientific experiments and orbited the earth for 68 days and nights. The corps recruited its first batch of 14 taikonauts from the elite pilots of the PLA Air Force in 1998. In 2010, seven more former pilots joined the mission ... read more

Related Links
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com

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