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Hard frontier

(Global Times)

09:19, November 08, 2011

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in Northwest China, seemed cold and quiet in the chilled breeze even when Shenzhou-8 successfully launched on Tuesday and docked with the Tiangong-1 space lab module two days later. It's the way the entire space center normally operates, cautious and with a very low profile.

The launch center's residential area has a population of 30,000 mainly consisting of technicians and soldiers along with their family members. It occupied more than half of this area when established in 1958, and it was the first of its kind in China, situated in an area that borders Gansu Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Residents are seldom seen on the streets, even in front of the food markets or at the schools in the center, normally only sunlight can be found which pours down on the willows swaying their yellow leaves during the winter frost. But all that changed when Shenzhou-8 was launched, during which the families of the soldiers and technicians appeared at the site with photo and video cameras, which is 1.5 kilometers away from the launch tower.

Around 300 people showed up at the appointed viewing site of the General Armament Department of the People's Liberation Army including young children who couldn't stop running around the warning line until their parents calmed them down just seconds before the official launch.

The adults concentrated on recording video of the event and were reluctant to talk to strangers, meanwhile, 20 guards standing in front of the warning line took off their masks and happily took photos of each other until 15 seconds before the countdown.

Though the people watching were restrained, they counted down with the announcer outside the building of the control room, while many spectators hailed the launch. A total of 300 people watched the launch from more than three different viewing locations.

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