Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (L) and Chen Dong meet the media at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Oct. 16, 2016. The two male astronauts will carry out the Shenzhou-11 mission. The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 17, 2016 Beijing Time (2330 GMT Oct. 16). (Xinhua/Li Gang)
by Xinhua writers Xue Yanwen, Li Guoli, Xiao Sisi
JIUQUAN, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Chinese astronaut Jing Haipeng is about to become the first Chinese to go into space for a third time, as he was selected to be commander of the upcoming Shenzhou-11 manned space mission.
Jing will work with fellow taikonaut Chen Dong and dock with China's Tiangong-2 space lab, where they will live and work for 30 days.
Jing was involved in the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, when astronaut Zhai Zhigang completed China's historic first spacewalk. In 2012, He was also the commander of Shenzhou-9, China's first manned space docking mission.
The 50-year-old astronaut is also about to set another two records: Clocking more than 45 days of spaceflight, making him the only Chinese astronaut to have traveled in space for this length of time.
He and Chen will also fly higher than any other Chinese astronaut, as their rendezvous with Tiangong-2 will be around 393 kilometers above ground level.
Apart from their designated tasks, Jing will also work as a Xinhua space correspondent, covering the mission and answering netizens' questions. The content that he creates will be broadcast via Xinhua's media channels.
NEVER STOP DREAMING
On this, his third time in space, Jing said he was "just as excited as before, but after two missions and 18 years of training, I feel calmer this time."
Many people ask Jing what motivates him, and he always answers, "I truly love what I do."
Time has done little to diminish his enthusiasm.
"I have had different dreams in different stages of my life. When one dream is fulfilled, I come up with another one. A person should never stop dreaming," he said.
The length of time that the two astronauts must spend in the space lab -- 30 days -- will pose the biggest challenge. Once inside Tiangong-2, they must carry out experiments related to in-orbit equipment repairs, aerospace medicine, space physics and biology.
They will undertake the highest number of tests of any manned space mission, according to Lyu Congmin with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
As commander of the Shenzhou-11 mission, Jing is prepared for any eventualities.
Known for his calm demeanor, Jing is often described by his colleagues as being a hard worker, while he admits he is a perfectionist.
"I can't sleep if I leave a problem unsolved," he said.
Chen Dong and Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut who had worked with Jing in the Shenzhou-9 mission, said that Jing also pushed his colleagues to better their practice. He is an inspirational team leader.
FROM RURAL CHINA TO SPACE
Born in a village in the northern province of Shanxi, Jing was named after a mythical bird that has wings like clouds.
At the time nobody could ever have thought that this baby would fly, too. Jing first showed an interest in aviation when he was a teenager and told his father that he wanted to be a pilot.
Jing registered for an aviation exam in 1984 but failed the recruitment process due to "physical reasons."
But this did not dissuade him. The following year, he enrolled with the People's Liberation Army aviation school. Upon graduation, he was relocated to a training base in Jiangsu Province. He had clocked 1,200 hours of safe flight time before he was enlisted as an astronaut.
In 1998, he was selected to be one of China's first astronauts, and was among six candidates trained in 2005 for the Shenzhou-6 mission.