Chasing the stars: Behind China’s space program

BEIJING, Dec. 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from on fascinating stories about Chinese astronauts:


Welcome to the story stall of China Mosaic. Today, I’d like to tell you some stories about China’s astronauts.

Recently, the Shenzhou-15 manned spacecraft was successfully launched into space. Its three crew members — Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu — became the first crew to visit China’s space station since the completion of its in-orbit construction, marking a historic gathering with the three Shenzhou-14 astronauts in space.

When I was a child, I also dreamed of becoming an astronaut. I once even made a small toy spaceship out of cardboard simply because I wanted to fly to space and see the stars.

Although my childhood dream didn’t come true, this has never prevented me from being fascinated by those “star-chasing” stories.

What is it like to pursue a dream for over 20 years but always end up disappointed? Having failed to become a crew member for the Shenzhou-9, -10 and -11 spacecraft, Deng Qingming served as a backup for a total of 24 years and 10 months. While he received the same amount and standard of training, Deng’s career prior to Shenzhou-15 had been a mixture of expectation and disappointment.

After years of patiently waiting, Deng was finally selected as a crew member. His story was no longer marked by misfortune or disappointment, but rather inspiration and a dream coming true. Deng was no longer a backup, but a fully-fledged Shenzhou-15 astronaut.

Deng still remembers the words of his colleague Chen Quan who encouraged him to work hard and never give up his duty as an astronaut, regardless of whether he’s a backup or full crew member.

Unlike Shenzhou-15, whose crew consists of a veteran team with an average age of 53, Shenzhou-14 has the youngest crew in history. Its commander Chen Dong, the youngest ever, has been to space twice. He has recently become the first Chinese astronaut to spend more than 200 days in orbit.

Six years ago, during his first trip to space as a crew member of Shenzhou-11, Chen went viral for a conversation with the spacecraft’s commander Jing Haipeng.

Chen Dong: Wow, it’s breathtaking.

Jing Haipeng: Feel great, right?

Chen Dong: So beautiful.

Jing Haipeng: I asked how you feel.

Chen Dong: Quite great!

Despite being some 400 km above Earth, we can still feel his excitement and strong sense of pride.

When Chen Dong was selected as a crew member again six years later, he said, “Six years ago, I expected to fly into space, and this time I want to go even more. The feeling is that simple.”

There are many more stories about taikonauts, such as the first Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei, astronaut mom Liu Yang … the list goes on. There’s no need to ask whether China’s space program is worth it; these taikonauts themselves are the best answers.

“The sky is high and the land is boundless; I cannot but feel the immensity of the universe.” “Sun and moon shed rays, and stars in fine arrays.” These lines from ancient Chinese literature have moved generations of Chinese space workers who have never stopped exploring and striving for progress.

But then again, with the development of spacecraft, the time when ordinary people can also venture into space may be just around the corner.

China Mosaic

Chasing the stars: Behind China’s space program