Ye Guangfu, a new face in China's space mission

Wang Xinjuan
2021-10-15 20:12:08
Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu meets the press at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Oct. 14, 2021. Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, the three Chinese astronauts for the upcoming Shenzhou-13 mission, met the press on Thursday. (Xinhua/Ju Zhenhua)

by Xinhua writers Shen Feng, Li Guoli

JIUQUAN, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Ye Guangfu, a new face in China's Shenzhou-13 mission, will live and work in the country's space station, which is still under construction, with two other seasoned astronauts Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping for six months.

Ye, born in 1980 in southwest China's Sichuan Province, was once an air force pilot, amassing 1,100 hours of flight time.

Ye was selected to join the second batch of Chinese astronauts in 2010 and made his first public appearance after completing an underground training mission deep in an Italian cave in 2016.

Ye and five other astronauts from the United States, Russia, Spain and Japan spent six days in Sardinian caves during the European Space Agency (ESA) underground training course CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills).

The mission focused on multi-cultural approaches to leadership, teamwork and decision-making in space-like environments, according to the ESA.

"The narrow cave is isolated from the outside world and is dark, damp and cold. We six were responsible for completing daily tasks such as climbing, exploration and surveying -- really arduous but worthwhile training," Ye told the media in Beijing in 2016.

Ye's major duties included exploring and mapping the uncharted areas, making accurate 3D models of objects and conducting real-time monitoring of environmental data.

"We had some communication problems due to our different cultures and languages, and it would be very dangerous for a team without cohesion and integration to perform tasks in such an extreme environment," Ye said.

Ye, head of the survey team, recalled that during a mission exploring rock piles, a teammate climbed to the edge of the cavern, and Ye noticed some pieces of rocks were falling. He was worried and advised his teammate to return. The teammate, however, was unaware of the risks and continued to move upward.

Ye immediately and resolutely ordered him to withdraw to a safe position. In the process of his withdrawal, the rocks began to slide and a landslide occurred lasting more than a minute, stunning the entire crew.

Ye, the first Chinese astronaut to participate in the multinational training, gained praise from teammates for his observation and decisiveness during the mission.

"The most important lesson for me is that self-confidence and mutual trust are the best way to deal with various dangers," Ye noted.

Ye's performance in the training also won considerable recognition from the ESA and he was given the honor of naming a newly discovered cave branch.

Ye named it the "Guang Ming (meaning light) Gallery."

"In the dark cave, Guang Ming means hope," he said.

"Exploring the space and building a space home are the common mission and pursuit of all astronauts. I am looking forward to meeting with my international counterparts in space and wish they can pay a visit to China's space station as a guest," said Ye at a press conference ahead of the Shenzhou-13 mission on Thursday. 

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