Profile: Jiang Xinlin, from tank driver to taikonaut

By Yuan Quan (Xinhua) 08:34, October 26, 2023

JIUQUAN, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- The orbiting Tiangong space station will this week welcome its new residents, with rookie taikonaut Jiang Xinlin set to check in for a six-month stay alongside two other crew members.

"I am very much looking forward to the space travel, to enjoying the fun in zero gravity and exploring the wonders of the vast universe," the 35-year-old said in a pre-flight interview.

China is set to launch the Shenzhou-17 manned spaceship on Thursday, sending taikonauts Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin to its space station to conduct various space science and application payload tests and experiments.

Like many of his predecessors, Jiang is a pilot-turned-taikonaut. But before reaching beyond the sky, he was also a ground-force tank driver.

Following his high school graduation in 2006, Jiang enrolled in an armored engineering institute of the People's Liberation Army. Training in harsh environments honed his operational skills and physical strength.

Controlling a heavy tank on the ground is similar to the underwater training that taikonauts undertake, with both requiring upper body strength, Jiang said.

The Air Force began recruiting pilots from military schools four years later, and Jiang was selected to become a fighter pilot trainee by the Aviation University of the Air Force, where he soon proved his extraordinary courage and skill.

Jiang won fame at the university by executing a safe emergency brake maneuver when he realized his engine speed indicator was abnormal just as he was beginning to take off. The beginner pilot did not hesitate and throttled down the engine decisively, opened the decelerating umbrella, braked to decelerate, and completed a smooth stop on the runway.

Years of hard work led Jiang to become increasingly fascinated by flight and cultivated his dream of soaring higher. In 2018, when China began recruiting its third group of taikonauts, Jiang applied for the selection.

He stood out and joined the taikonaut candidate pool in September 2020. Jiang has since received training that is much tougher than that undertaken by pilots.

He said that one of the most challenging exercises was sitting in the rotating chair, which is used for balance training to help reduce the effects of zero gravity on the human body in space. Jiang did not do very well at first, often feeling dizzy and sick, so he voluntarily undertook extra practice for several more weeks to improve his performance.

He excelled in field survival training and made significant efforts after being slated to join the upcoming Shenzhou-17 mission. His training tips and study of body language won recognition from his crewmates.

Born in a rural part of central China's Henan Province in 1988, Jiang has faced challenges since childhood. When he was young, he and his elder brother worked after-school jobs to lighten the burden on his parents.

Calm, candid and modest, the taikonaut said at a press conference on Wednesday that achieving his space dream is an "incredible honor," and that the country's development in the new era has provided him with the precious opportunity to showcase his skills.

He said he will cherish this opportunity to fly into space and fulfill his duty.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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