CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (6/2/2020 Tue.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (6/2/2020 Tue.)

People's Daily app

00:51, June 02, 2020

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From People’s Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

Since October 2003, China has conducted six manned spaceflights with its Shenzhou series, which totaled 68 days and orbited Earth 1,089 times.

Chinese astronauts have traveled over 46 million kilometers in space, performed extravehicular activities, conducted several extended missions, and delivered a 40-minute lecture from space that was watched by more than 60 million students in about 80,000 schools.

China’s new-generation manned spacecraft will serve the country's future space station and lunar landings. The new spaceship will have a length of nearly 9 meters, a diameter of 4.5 meters, and a liftoff weight of more than 20 metric tons.

The new spaceship will feature high reliability and flexibility, and multiple functions, as well as reusability.

It will be tasked with serving the construction and operation of China's future space station, as well as the country's manned lunar missions that are being planned by scientists, the agency explained.

Today’s Story in the Story looks at China’s new generation of manned spacecraft and the people who have contributed to its development.   

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China's Long March 5B carrier rocket makes its debut flight from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province. (Photo: chinadaily.com.cn)

Zhang Bainan, the chief designer of the trial version of China's new-generation manned spaceship, was born in June 1962 in Qiqihar of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. 

He once wrote in his diary that his dream job was working in airplane design.

The majors he applied for after high school were aerospace-related. Growing up, he was called a "nerd" by his classmates. 

After studying solid mechanics at the National University of Defense Technology, Zhang obtained his master's degree in spacecraft design from China Academy of Space Technology in 1987. Ten years later, he was appointed as deputy chief designer of China's manned spaceship. Zhang is quite content; he has achieved a harmonious balance between his passion and career.

According to Zhang, the new-generation manned spaceship has a much better thermal resistance than the Shenzhou spacecraft. The new manned spaceship resists temperatures up to 3,000 C, which is two to three times higher than what the Shenzhou spacecraft can resist.

As a manned moon ship, it is also very light. The thermal resistance layer was domestically designed from material to structure.

Zhang said the previous thermal resistant materials were not ideal and overlapped with the same products designed by other countries. 

Therefore, the overall plan has been overturned. "It is fair to say that thermal resistant material design in China has surpassed the US," he added.

"In developing the new-generation manned spaceship, it feels obvious that China has significantly improved its manufacturing of spacecraft, especially if you compare our latest efforts with the Shenzhou spacecraft," said Zhang. China's aerospace technology level is cutting-edge in the world, and the development of many other spacecraft and satellites benefited from improvements in our manufacturing ability, he added.

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Trial version of China's new-generation manned spaceship capsule in assembly. (Photo: cnsphoto)

One of the purposes of the new-generation spaceship trial is to test the performance of the Long March 5B rocket to improve the precision in the follow-up autonomous control and return.

Because the capsule of the new-generation spaceship is twice as heavy as that of Shenzhou, it imposed more requirements on landing. Shenzhou used the world's biggest parachute, and it was unfeasible to add another one to the new spaceship. Therefore, Zhang and his team replaced the parachute with a parachute combination comprised of three parachutes, which proved successful.

During an interview with CCTV, Zhang said he was doing something that had never been done by anyone else as he had previously followed other countries' experience, which was less risky and led to a higher success rate. Now that China's aerospace technology is approaching the world's advanced level, its designers are facing more decisive risks.

"We are facing great pressure, so I am also exploring ways for the young people in my teams," he said. 

"One of my college classmates chose to work in the US, and he had quite a fancy life in the first few years with a big house and three vehicles. I had not owned a single car at that time," said Zhang. 

"When I was young, I might have valued a house and fancy cars, but as I grew older, I started to answer differently the question of what I've achieved in my life," Zhang explained.

"Manned space flight is a dream career, and my dream is to make the Chinese people travel farther," he said.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brain Lowe and Da Hang. Text from Global Times and China Daily.)


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