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Chinese astronauts assume new manual roles


20:27, June 15, 2012

China's astronauts Jing Haipeng (C), Liu Wang (R) and Liu Yang meet with media in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, June 15, 2012. The three astronauts will board Shenzhou-9 spacecraft on Saturday to fulfill China's first manned space docking mission. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

JIUQUAN, June 15 (Xinhua) -- As China prepares for its upcoming manned space docking mission, experts at home and abroad are sketching new profiles of Chinese astronauts shaping the country's ambitions.

"In terms of their roles, astronauts are turning into 'drivers' rather than 'passengers'," according to He Yu, chief commander of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft which on Saturday will be launched into orbit to dock with space lab module Tiangong-1.

Its crew of Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang was introduced to the public via a televised press conference on Friday.

It will be the second journey into space for 46-year-old Jing and the first space adventure for 43-year-old Liu Wang and the country's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, who is 33.

"Should any emergency occur, the human brain is more reliable than the computer," He said.

During the manned space flight, one of the three-member crew will manipulate the craft to couple with the space lab module with the assistance of the two others.

Also, the country's first manned rendezvous and docking mission between a spaceship and a space lab module will test the function of its spaceships as a transport carrier between the space and Earth, said Zhou Jianping, designer-in-chief of China's manned space program.

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