Before going to space, Jiang Xinlin, 35 years old, he was a tank driver and fighter pilot for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. At the controls of the fighters that fly over the disputed islands of the South Seas, he logged more than 1,000 flight hours during a prodigious 10-year career in the air force.
Jiang added to his resume this Thursday with his first space flight. He did it as a crew member of the Shenzhou-17 mission. The destination was the Tiangong station, which orbits about 380 kilometers above Earth. Another young former Chinese Army pilot was also on the ship, Tang Shengjie (33 years). Like her colleague Jiang, it was her first time in space.
Both pilots lThey have been preparing for three years in an astronaut camp in Beijing, where, dressed in suits that weigh more than 120 kilos, they train inside a 10-meter-deep water tank that simulates weightlessness in space.
At the head of the mission was another more veteran pilot, Commander Tang Hongbo (48 years old), who holds the record of being the Chinese taikonaut (as astronauts are known in Beijing) with the shortest interval between space missions: two in two years.
The ambitious space program of the Asian superpower, which plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2030, continues to gain strength with the youngest team of astronauts in its history, starting a six-month mission in Tiangong.