Space Journal: Chinese astronauts accept 1st earth-space interview

ABOARD TIANGONG-2, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) — Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong are currently on a 33-day space journey and acting as Xinhua special correspondents. On Tuesday, they talked with their copy desk on earth for the first time.

Following is the text of the conversation.

Li Keyong (associate director of Xinhua All-Media Service): Hello, mission commander Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong! On behalf of all the comrades at Xinhua News Agency, and entrusted by leaders of Xinhua, I want to extend our special respect and gratitude to you, two special colleagues! The space journals which you authored as Xinhua’s special correspondents have registered over 100 million views. This is the first time in history that astronauts have sent reports back to Earth as news correspondents. In front of audiences nationwide and worldwide, do you want to say anything?

Jing Haipeng: So far, Shenzhou-11 has been in space for exactly 30 days. During these 30 days, after work we look out through the porthole to see the landscape and view the world. When the spaceship is over China, we two feel especially excited. Honestly, even in the wildernesses of space, we can always feel the love from our motherland and families, as well as the encouragement, care and support of Chinese all over the world. We would like to take this opportunity to thank people all over China and to extend best wishes to Chinese around the world.

Li Keyong: After a few more days, you will come back to Earth. As you are about to say goodbye to space, could you describe your feelings?

Jing Haipeng: Our leaders, colleagues and comrades-in-arms on earth have been supporting us these days. They work around the clock, cheer us on and provide us with all-round support. There are still two more days to go, and we will be more meticulous and strict on every detail so as to ensure safety of the payload.

Chen Dong: I feel a bit reluctant to depart but I also feel happy and thrilled. I feel reluctant because soon we will be leaving Tiangong-2, where we have lived and worked for 30 days. It is like our home in space so I still have a sense of reluctance and attachment. I feel happy and thrilled because we are getting back to our “big family” soon, back to our Earth, and back to our motherland. We will get the rest of the work done well, accomplish the mission safely and return to our motherland and home.

Li Keyong: What work do you still need to do?

Jing Haipeng: All work is progressing on schedule. There is also some preparatory work to be done: first, recovering experimental data; second, cleaning up the compartment; third, setting up the conditions before leaving Tiangong.

Most of the experiments have been completed and some data transmitted back to Earth. The rest is saved on memory cards to be taken back to earth due to the large size of the data set. Vegetables grown in space and the silkworm cocoons will also be brought back. Urine and saliva samples, as well as microorganisms sampled before leaving orbit will also be brought back onto the ground for analysis.

Chen Dong: One of the tasks for compartment clean-up is moving out, like packing. When we entered Tiangong-2, we moved many things in including our necessities and experimental items, in all sizes. The bicycle which we use to exercise was unfolded in orbit. That was equal to decorating a home in space. Now we are moving back to Earth and need to put some items back where they should be. Some items need binding while aboard Tiangong and the work is time-consuming.

Zhang Jianli (expert with Astronaut Center of China): Some items had been installed before launch and were unwrapped in orbit. It is as complex to re-pack as to unpack them. In fact, as some experiments ended early, the packing has been going on for a while.

Chen Dong: Packing in space is strenuous. Both people and ropes are floating. When one end is tied, the other end of the rope flies. But carelessness is not allowed in packing. There are clear requirements on how an item should be packed, including what a packed item should look like, where it should be placed, and even whether an item should be wrapped horizontally or slantwise.

Jing Haipeng: We need to sweep Tiangong clean before leaving and take away items that should be taken away; this is very important. Some trash, if left aboard Tiangong, will be dangerous. To make Tiangong’s follow-up tasks possible, they must be taken away. Residual food waste, sanitary product waste, and some trash created during in-orbit experiments, including batteries and electrodes, will be packed and placed in the orbital compartment. The trash will then crash into the atmosphere and be destroyed together with the compartment.

Different from throwing trashes into waste containers on Earth, we need to put them into compressed bags, similar to vacuum bags that are used to pack quilts at home. There is a valve in the center, and after the zipping we use a pump to remove the air.

Zhang Jianli: Compression and sorting of the waste will ensure that it does not take up too much of the astronauts activity space. Also, if the waste is exposed to the air, it will quickly begin to smell. The space station in the future will have waste processors similar to compressors, and could also have a big waste container or waste zone.

Chen Dong: Setting up the conditions before departure is similar to turning off the water and electricity before leaving a house for a long time. Tiangong-2 will be used in the long-term and dock with space cargo ships. We have to make sure that electricity, water, gas and communications are set up properly. In total there are 40-50 conditions to set up.

People nationwide and Chinese around the world care about us very much. Thank you all for your consistent care and support! Hope you will continue to pay attention to spaceflight and the development of our manned space program.

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