China Space Program: 20th anniversary of the establishment of the PLA Astronaut Brigade
It's 20 years since the astronaut brigade of the Chinese People's Liberation Army was established. Twenty-one astronauts, known as taikonauts in China, have since been recruited, in two batches, with a third one on the way. Our reporter Su Yuting visited their base to find out more about their mission.
Taking an oath and reaffirming their commitment to China's space program. These 11 taikonauts -- who have all been in space -- are admired all around the country, held up as models of hard work and courage.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army taikonaut brigade was established in 1998 with 14 members. Twelve years later, in 2010, a further seven were added. Yang Liwei was China's first taikonaut; and he took off into space in 2005 onboard the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft. Now Deputy Director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, he says the taikonauts have formed a remarkable bond and understanding.
YANG LIWEI CHINA'S FIRST TAIKONAUT "I think the taikonaut brigade is an outstanding team and a united group. From my first flight into space in the Shenzhou-5 to the recent Shenzhou-11 mission, we have gone through six manned space missions, and we completed our tasks each time. Not only those taikonauts in space, but also our colleagues working on the ground have contributed a lot to the country's manned space missions. This is a group full of patriotism. With a spirit of dedication and hard work, the taikonaut brigade has progressed and developed. Over the past 20 years we have shown a lot of perseverance and devotion."
With such strict physical fitness requirements, every taikonaut must endure a quite rigorous training schedule. And whilst the first and second batch of taikonauts were qualified airforce pilots, the third will involve engineers who will be responsible for tasks such as maintenance and assembly operations.
HUANG WEIFEN DEPUTY CHIEF DESIGNER, ASTRONAUT SYSTEM ASTRONAUT CENTER OF CHINA "The taikonauts should have professional skills. We hope the ones we have selected are excellent, with rich knowledge, and be psychologically and physically fit. They should be outstanding, and capable of working in space."
And China's ambitious space program hasn't gone unnoticed around the world, with many experts believing the country is on the right path to achieving its goals.
YANG LIWEI CHINA'S FIRST ASTRONAUT "I have participated in many international conferences and have had in-depth exchanges with my foreign counterparts. They have high praise for how our country has rapidly developed its aerospace industry, especially over the past five years. We have accomplished a rendezvous and a docking and we are gradually making breakthroughs in all the key technologies of manned spacecraft. We're very proud of our manned space program."
SU YUTING BEIJING "In his report to the 19th National Congress, President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of the Chinese dream, and the hope of building a strong aerospace industry. The taikonauts say they feel inspired by these words and they will do their utmost to contribute to the national cause. Su Yuting, CGTN, Beijing."