"The starry sky accompanies me, the motherland and I watch" (narration and special planning)

The Shenzhou 3 manned mission is the first manned mission in the construction stage of the Chinese space station, and it is also the most complex, technically difficult and astronaut crew workload since the construction of the space station in orbit. For the first time, two manned spacecraft were in orbit at the same time and two groups of astronauts were rotated in orbit, setting a new Chinese record for the fastest rendezvous and docking between a cargo spacecraft and the space station, and three departures from a single manned mission, laying a solid foundation for the subsequent construction and operation of the space station. After returning to Earth, astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe recalled their 183 days of flight in orbit and told the story of their space home.


A few days ago, the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, and the Central Military Commission issued the Decision on Awarding Chen Dong and Liu Yang the "Second-Class Space Merit Medal" to Cai Xuzhe and the "Third-Class Space Merit Medal".

What are the unforgettable memories of the Shenzhou 183 crew during the <>-day Chinese ninth space journey? What other moving moments are worth remembering behind the upgrade and expansion of the space home? Shenzhou <> astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe shared the bits and pieces of space life.

In the bright galaxy, the spacecraft realizes rendezvous and docking in orbit

Staring intently at the Wentian experimental module from a small point, getting closer and closer, to a behemoth, Liu Yang suddenly had an impulse in his heart: he really wanted to embrace it with open arms

Chen Dong carefully put on his mask, headlamp and goggles, held an air quality monitor, opened the balance valve, and slowly opened the hatch in front of the nodal cabin. He poked his head inside to check his surroundings, installed a protective cover for the hatch, and after confirming that everything was safe, he took off his mask and goggles. At this time, he smelled a special smell wafting from "Ask Heaven". Astronauts call it "the taste of space."

Immediately afterwards, Chen Dong took out a "new home" key shaped like a metal wrench, slowly turned the key, and opened the second hatch - the docking hatch of the Wentian experimental cabin. The last door to the new home was then successfully opened. What caught his eye was the neat and bright interior space of the Wentian experimental module, with many white packages stacked neatly and orderly, and cabinets on both sides.

Recalling these details, Chen Dong felt that every scene was vividly remembered. The timeline goes back to last year, and they personally experienced the three-module combination of the space station in space to complete the basic configuration of the "T" shape, just like a curious child about to put together the last few building blocks, especially excited and looking forward to it.

At 2022:7 on July 24, 14, when the Chang-22B carrier rocket carried "Wentian" to the ground, in the Chinese space station about 400 kilometers above the ground, the three astronauts of the Shenzhou 3 crew who watched the live broadcast were very excited in their hearts... When "Wentian " flew to "Tianhe", the three took turns to guard, and the other two lay on the side of the porthole, tilting their heads sideways, staring intently at the Wan Tian experimental cabin from a small point, getting closer and closer, into a behemoth, Liu Yang suddenly had an impulse in his heart: I really wanted to embrace it with open arms. About 7 hours later, with a "bang", two 20-ton spacecraft gently "kissed" in the bright galaxy to complete the automatic rendezvous and docking in orbit.

After opening the door of the "Ask the Sky", the 3 astronauts couldn't wait to enter the capsule. After officially moving in, they stood in a row and saluted and swore an oath to the motherland and people. "This is the second working and living module we have in space, and the construction of the Chinese space station has taken a big step forward, and we feel extremely proud and happy!" Chen Dong said.

The Wentian experimental module is a backup of the core cabin and has a complete regenerative health protection system. Because there is so much equipment, someone needs to monitor the situation in the cabin. In order to take care of the "new residence", Cai Xuzhe deliberately transferred his sleeping area to "Ask the Sky". The difference is that the beds in the "Ask the Sky" sleeping area are standing, while the beds in the Sky and Core cabin sleeping areas are laid flat.

Three months later, they welcomed the arrival of the "Mengtian" experimental module with the same mood. So far, the Shenzhou 3 crew and the ground have completed the assembly and construction of the basic configuration of the space station "T", and the Chinese space home has been expanded into a spacious and comfortable "big three residences".

During the 183 days in orbit, astronauts used various methods to adjust their mood

Capture the vast universe and the beauty of the earth with a lens; Write good wishes on lucky stars; Taste vegetables grown by yourself in space

"When we were on a two-way video call with the ground personnel, we saw a row of leafy trees in the ground lens, and we happily watched it for a long time..." Chen Dong said.

The new space home is spacious and comfortable, and the weightless environment in space is full of novelty, but 3 people live in a closed and narrow environment for 183 days, which is still relatively boring and single compared to life on Earth. But this is a psychological challenge that astronauts must go through in space, and in their leisure time, they will also try their best to adjust their mood.

Chen Dong likes to use the lens to photograph the vast universe and the beauty of the earth, and he also created a series of space-themed poems about what he thinks: "I soar between heaven and earth / Fly over the earth, through my hometown / The starry sky accompanies me, the motherland and I watch / The starry sky is the heart longing, the motherland is thinking about the night..."

Liu Yang will stack a lucky star every day and write beautiful wishes on the lucky star, which is her blessing for China's space home. One day, the ground staff suddenly notified Liu Yang to make a two-way video call. Liu Yang "floated" to the camera and found that in the video call room on the ground, relatives and friends were singing birthday songs. It turned out that it was Liu Yang's birthday.

On the birthday gift given by Liu Yang's lover, a small card was attached with the words: "It is said that the earth has existed for 46.<> billion years, while human beings have only existed for millions of years, what a proud thing it is to spend his birthday in space..." Liu Yang looked at the card and felt very warm in his heart.

As soon as Cai Xuzhe had time, he went to take care of the lettuce, tomatoes and wheat seeds he brought. In order to celebrate Chinese first Mid-Autumn Festival in space, Cai Xuzhe specially picked a pot of lettuce, and he said happily: "This is the first time we have tasted the vegetables we grew in space, and the taste is very good." ”

Carry out extravehicular operations and see the full view of the space station

Against the background of the blue and white earth, "Ask the Sky" and "Meng Tian" are like huge wings that are spread, and the space station elegantly flies around the earth home

Out-of-cabin activity is one of the most difficult aspects of a space station mission. The Shenzhou 3 crew set a record of three missions in one mission, and each exit faced new goals and challenges.

For the first time, Chen Dong and Liu Yang carried out extravehicular operations. Cai Xuzhe cooperates in the core module. At 2022:9 on September 1, 19, Chen Dong and Liu Yang successfully left the cabin and completed the tasks of installing cable guards, extravehicular operation stations, expanding the pump set and lifting the panoramic camera. The two also took turns standing on robotic arms, completing a new verification mode that requires two astronauts to have role reversal capabilities in the mission.

The final challenge they face is to verify the autonomous emergency return outside the cabin. Out-of-cabin astronauts need to simulate the scenario of returning as quickly as possible in an emergency when working at the farthest end of the exit hatch.

This experience made Liu Yang unforgettable for life. It turned out that during the first on-orbit training before leaving the cabin, Liu Yang found that it was difficult to control his body posture when crawling with one hand and the other. There are no small differences between the real space environment and the ground training environment. Just passing items before leaving the cabin cost her a lot of physical strength. To this end, she trained repeatedly and finally firmly controlled her body posture.

When the official crawl is made, it happens to be in the shadow area. Liu Yang looked down and saw that there was bottomless darkness all around, and her heart immediately tightened. She quickly grabbed the handrail, closed her eyes, fixed her mind, and continued to move forward, a bright moon hung quietly under her feet, her heart became steady, and she climbed steadily to the end. After about 6 hours, the Shenzhou <> crew successfully completed all the scheduled tasks of the first out-of-cabin activity.

In the subsequent two out-of-cabins, the Shenzhou 14 crew created one "first" after another.

At 2022:9 on September 17, 13, Cai Xuzhe successfully opened the airlock cabin door of the Wentian experimental cabin to welcome his first exit. The cabin door opened, Cai Xuzhe leaned out and greeted the camera: "35 is out of the cabin, feel good!" After completing the operational tasks such as installing the extravehicular booster handle and the extravehicular load expansion pump set, he and Chen Dong had to complete the last important task - the first extravehicular rescue verification.

This task was simulated by Cai Xuzhe to lose his working ability, and Chen Dong brought it back to the hatch from outside the cabin. Although the rescue route is only about 10 meters, it is difficult. "03 can slowly release the hand, 01 start the rescue." The conductor's voice sounded, and Cai Xuzhe let go of his hands little by little. Chen Dong hung his own safety rope to Cai Xuzhe's fixed rope, and then hung another safety rope carrying the lives of two people to the bulkhead, and carefully brought Cai Xuzhe back to the hatch.

The whole process lasted 20 minutes, in order to make the simulation more realistic, Cai Xuzhe never supported the bulkhead with his hand, and Chen Dong also completed the operation smoothly, perfectly interpreting an extravehicular rescue.

After the assembly of the basic configuration of the "T" shape of the Chinese space station in orbit, in order to facilitate the spacewalk between the three cabins, it is necessary to build inter-cabin connection devices between the Tianhe core module and the Wentian experimental module, and between the Tianhe core module and the Mengtian experimental module. On November 2022, 11, Chen Dong and Cai Xuzhe once again teamed up to go out of the cabin and erect a "flyover", that is, a connecting device between cabins. After the "flyover" was built, Cai Xuzhe became the first person to "complete the bridge" and "test the train", and realized the first extravehicular walking across the cabin.

When performing extravehicular operations, Chen Dong recalled that when he was sent by his arms to the best perspective and could see the full view of the space station, he felt a strong visual impact: against the background of the blue and white earth, "Ask the sky" and "Mengtian" are like huge wings that are open, and the space station elegantly flies around the earth home. With the vast universe above the head and the space station and the earth under the feet, people are quietly in it, and a sense of pride is born. This pride belongs to the crew, the astronauts, and the Chinese.

The two crews of space "meet", and the wonderful story continues to be written

Pride and emotion surged in everyone's hearts, and they shouted to the camera in unison: "The Chinese space station is always worth looking forward to!" ”

This is a group photo destined to be recorded in China's aerospace history: Shenzhou 14 crew members Chen Dong, Liu Yang, Cai Xuzhe and Shenzhou 15 crew members Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming, Zhang Lu appeared together in the Chinese space station module, smiling happily. This is the first time in the history of China's manned spaceflight that two astronaut crews have "met" in space, and it is also the first time that Chinese astronauts have welcomed the visit of the Shenzhou manned spacecraft at the space station.

As early as when the Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft "expressed" the materials needed for the Shenzhou 15 astronauts to stay in orbit to the space station, Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe had already begun to be busy welcoming their partners. They packed up the sleeping area, sanitary area and dining area of the Shenzhou 15 crew one by one, so that the new crew could "check in with their bags". They also specially put on welcome clothes and recorded a welcome video for the Shenzhou 15 crew.

At 2022:11 on November 29, 23, the Shenzhou 08 spacecraft carried astronauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu successfully launched into space. That night, the Shenzhou <> crew almost did not sleep all night, watching the launch live broadcast in the first half of the night, waiting for the rocket to be successfully launched, and after the successful launch, they were so excited that they couldn't sleep.

More than 6 hours later, the Shenzhou <> spacecraft independently and quickly rendezvous and docked to the forward port of the Tianhe core module. For the first time, the Chinese space station has formed a "three-cabin and three-ship" combination, reaching the maximum configuration of the current design.

Finally able to open the hatch. Chen Dong, commander of the Shenzhou 6 crew, opened the "home door" of the space station, and Fei Junlong, the commander of the Shenzhou <> crew, opened the hatch of the Shenzhou <> spacecraft. From a distance of two meters, Chen Dong stretched out his arms: "Welcome home!" With the help of Chen Dong, Fei Junlong was the first to "float" into the Mengtian cabin, and the two hugged each other tightly. Then, <> astronauts reunited and took a group photo Chinese their space home, pride and emotion surged in everyone's hearts, and they shouted their hearts to the camera in unison: "The Chinese space station is always worth looking forward to!" ”

Cai Xuzhe couldn't wait to take the Shenzhou 15 crew to visit the furnishings at home, Chen Dong and Liu Yang helped their friends warm breakfast, sort out their luggage, and shared the fresh fruits and vegetables brought by the new crew with the cargo ship. The space station has become more lively.

After a brief reunion, it was time for separation. The Shenzhou 2022 crew is about to return to Earth. On the evening of December 12, 2, the Shenzhou 6 and Shenzhou <> crews held a face-to-face handover ceremony, and six astronauts signed the confirmation form. Subsequently, Chen Dong solemnly handed over the key to the space station to Fei Junlong. At this point, the "three-step" strategy of China's manned space project has been successfully concluded, and the Chinese space station has officially opened a long-term manned residence mode.

In the face of parting, Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe had mixed tastes in their hearts, both happy to return to the embrace of the motherland, and reluctant to leave their comrades and space home. But the Shenzhou 14 crew is extremely sure that in the near future, there will definitely be a chance to return.

The starry sky is vast and the exploration is endless. The wonderful story of the Chinese space station will continue to be written.

(People's Daily, Liu Shiyao, Zhan Kang)