China Exclusive: Ground Control to Yang Liwei: recalling China's first manned space mission

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-23 11:46:09|Editor: Lifang
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BEIJING, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Yang Liwei felt everything vibrating violently. Experiencing acceleration of gravity at 8G, he thought his body was about to be torn apart. He couldn't move. He couldn't see.

"I thought I'd die in that 26 seconds," China's first taikonaut Yang told Xinhua, revealing details of the country's first manned space mission, Shenzhou-5, in 2003.

Yang, 53, said that low frequency resonance occurred when the rocket climbed to around 30 to 40 kilometers above the ground. Vibration in the spacecraft below 10 Hz can damage human's internal organs, threatening a taikonaut's life.

"I thought I was going to die," Yang said.

"Hold on! Just hold on for a bit longer," the only person on board told himself.

The deep vibrations lasted for 26 seconds. When it was finally over, the then 38-year-old taikonaut felt like he had been reborn.

Carrying Yang, China's first manned space vehicle, Shenzhou-5, was launched at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2003. The spacecraft orbited the Earth 14 times, in a space journey of 600,000 kilometers, and landed at 6:23 a.m. the next day.

When Yang returned, he learned that everyone at ground control had also suffered frayed nerves, desperately doing what they could to fix the problem.

The problem was soon solved over the following missions, and Chen Dong, crew member of the Shenzhou-11 mission in 2016, told Xinhua that his flight was so smooth it reminded him of a high-speed train.

After Yang's breakthrough, another 10 Taikonauts have flown into space in five other manned missions.

But before the Shenzhou-5 mission, that year had seen tragedies. The U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering the atmosphere in February, killing all seven crew members. A Brazilian space rocket exploded on its launch pad in August, killing 21 people.

Although designers of the Shenzhou-5 systems had vouched for its safety, Yang's family were worried.

In space, Yang made a phone call to his family.

"I'm feeling very good in space, and it looks extremely splendid around here," he told his wife Zhang Yumei.

Only when he returned did he find out that after the phone call his wife had a sleepless night because she was so worried.

She wept when the parachute of the re-entry capsule opened.

Zhang usually takes care of the housework, leaving only the maintenance of electronic devices to her husband. Before leaving for the mission, Yang decided to teach Zhang how to set the alarm clock, but she refused.

"You can do it yourself when you come back," she said, refusing to countenance the other possibility.

"I'm always ready for another mission," said Yang, who now is deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

Yang went on an incredible journey, but he knows that it was just the beginning of China's space exploration.