Written by: Liu zhonkui
Translated by: Xu Hao
Edited by: D. Parker
How did China's manned space program start from scratch and become so strong? What are the lesser-known stories behind the development of Tiangong-2? How can we become a person in the space industry with a sense of mission? After graduating from HIT 25 years ago，Zhu Zongpeng, the chief architect of the Tiangong-2 returned to his alma mater on the evening of March 16th, 2018. He talked with the students face to face about the theme of “pursuing your space dream to rejuvenate China”. During the discussion, he talked about the path of development of China’s manned space program. He also shared his personal story from childhood to becoming a leader in China’s space program.
This event was part of the 2018 "China Aerospace Day" series of lectures. It was jointly sponsored by the Youth League Committee and the Academy of Aerospace and hosted by the 201 Forum.
Zhu Zongpeng graduated from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics of HIT in 1993. He then entered the China Academy of Space Technology (the fifth institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation) to participate in the development of the manned spacecraft Shenzhou-1 to Shenzhou-5. He was in charge of the overall technical work of the Shenzhou-5 and Shenzhou-6 spacecraft. He led the development and technical work of the Tiangong-2 space laboratory system, making outstanding contributions to China’s manned space flight program ushering in the era of the space station.
"I feel privileged to stand here today and share about China's manned spaceflight program with all of you. I am an HIT graduate; I’ve been away from my alma mater for 25 years. During these years I have watched the development of my alma mater. In returning to HIT, there is a feeling of coming home.” Throughout the lecture, Zhu Zongpeng and students shared happily with open hearts.
Zhu led the students to review the development and history of the world’s manned space flight program. He discussed the three-step development strategy established by China’s manned space program from the planning stage through the development process. He pointed out that through the history of manned space development in the world, China has never stopped its manned space flight program. With the continuous enhancement of the country’s overall national strength after the reform and opening up, China has gradually seized a strategic position, from Shenzhou-1, Shenzhou-11 to Tiangong-2. China has had a step-by-step approach to turn the “flying dreams” of the Chinese people into reality. Through all of this we have made steady progress toward the construction of the Chinese’s own space station.
Zhu Zongpeng told some impressive stories of the Tiangong-2 from its development to its launch. He mentioned an astronaut whose wife ws giving birth, yet he was at the launch site to guarantee the mission’s success. “There were people who were slightly injured but they never stopped their work, supporting the space program." According to reports, although the average age of the Tiangong-2 development team is only 35, the development process has taken only 5 years. “Manned spaceflight is a ' life-and-death' matter, requiring each engineer to be rigorous, prudent, careful, and hard-working, for even a small detail may cause the aircraft to malfunction.” Zhu Zongpeng said.
"The successful accomplishment of the Tiangong-2 mission cannot be separated from the leadership of the party and the country. It could not have been achieved without the joint efforts of all astronauts and the strong technical support of our alma mater" he said. Looking ahead, our party's Nineteenth Congress proposed to build a strong aerospace country, which will provide a powerful driving force for the development of the manned space program. It will inspire those in the space program to remain true to their original aspirations and keep their mission firmly in mind. It is hoped that more students will join the space team, making great contributions to realize the Chinese dream of a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
At the end of the lecture, Zhu Zongpeng dedicated a long period of time to answer students’ questions.
Some students asked: “What had the biggest impact on you during your years in HIT?” Zhu peng replied, “HIT’s school motto and great learning atmosphere deeply influenced me and taught me to study hard. I clearly remember times of taking our seats in order to learn and then returning to the dormitory with heads filled with knowledge."
Some students asked: "What supports your belief in the aerospace industry? Tell us about the process you went through to became a leading talent? How can one become a qualified astronaut?" Zhu Zongpeng replied, "It is because I have always had a sense of mission for the aerospace industry that I have become who I am today. Since the country has given me such an important task, I must do it well. In my opinion, it is not only about engaging in space-related issues, but other works also. We should have passion, love and be able to withstand loneliness and temptations. We should pay attention to our daily learning experiences and develop a good habit of active and lifelong learning. Only in this way, can we achieve great success in the field of aerospace, or other areas.”