By He Juan
On June 17, Qi Faren, former chief designer of China’s Shenzhou spaceships, watched the launch of China’s crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-12 at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert as an ordinary citizen for the first time.
“I used to watch rocket launches in our office building, while this time I watched the launch at a square with the crowd, and every step of the launch made me feel excited. It was such a precious experience,” said the 88-year-old man.
This Chinese expert in aerospace has taken part in the development of China’s first guided missile Dongfeng-1, and contributed to the design of the country’s first man-made satellite Dongfanghong-1(DFH-1), DFH-2 relay satellite, and DFH-3 second-generation communications satellite as an important technical director.
In 1992, Qi was appointed as chief designer of China’s Shenzhou spacecraft series at the age of 59. When he was in charge of the Shenzhou spaceflight program, Qi formulated overall plans with Chinese characteristics and in line with China’s reality, under which China sent Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, its first human spaceflight mission, into space in 2003.
Qi’s important contributions to solving major engineering and technical problems in the development of satellites and spacecraft brought high honors to him, including a grand prize of the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award and the national labor award.
Qi was born in the 1930s, a time when China was impoverished and weak. When he was young, Qi made up his mind that when he grew up he would build airplanes so that China would become stronger and won’t be bullied any more.
All his life choices have been made according to the calls of the country and the needs of the aerospace cause. Besides Shenzhou spacecraft, Qi has also been engaged in the development of China’s first missile, rocket, and satellite.
Qi has devoted his entire life to the cause of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the country’s aerospace. His important contributions to China’s space exploration is a vivid demonstration of his given name “Faren”, which means the emergence of new things and a promising start of a situation.
When China took its first steps in aerospace in the 1950s, many practitioners in the industry, including Qi, hadn’t even seen missiles and satellites. The tight technology blockades from foreign countries at that time made Qi aware that China needs to rely on its own, not anyone else, for the development of its aerospace.
Since they didn’t have cryogenic lab, Qi and his colleagues borrowed the navy’s cold storage facilities; and as no advanced computers were available, they used hand tally counters for calculation and wrote down the figures one by one.
After numerous experiments and breakthroughs, Qi and his colleagues eventually sent the DFH-1 satellite into space. Built fully by home-made components and parts, DFH-1 shows China’s determination to stick to self-reliance and self-improvement, and has encouraged many Chinese people.
When he took the position as chief designer of the Shenzhou spacecraft, Qi was really stressed out as he had to be responsible for the lives of the astronauts on manned spaceflight missions.
After sending four unmanned test spacecraft into space and solving many difficulties along the way, Qi and his colleagues finally accomplished the Shenzhou-5 mission.
Every step of China toward the space mirrors the hard work of Chinese aerospace professionals. It is because of the decades of arduous exploration and dedication of aerospace workers that China’s space cause has grown from scratch and secured many major achievements.
Qi delivered a speech on China’s aerospace cause and spirit in Hong Kong on June 25. In his speech, Qi pointed out that the purpose of promoting manned spaceflight is not to compete with other countries, but to build space station to make use of resources, conduct research, and achieve results for making people’s life better.
“I have known from personal experience that a country or a nation can’t depend on others but itself to develop and grow stronger. No country will simply hand over its advanced technologies to others,” he said.
“There are many reasons behind our achievements over the past over 60 years of aerospace development, a major one of which is that we have forged the aerospace spirit in the process. We march forward with the spiritual strength we get from the spirit, and achieve our success,” Qi noted.