Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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In an unprecedented move, around a dozen candidates from Hong Kong and Macau have been shortlisted to participate in China’s rigorous screening process for selecting payload specialists in their space programme. This announcement was made by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-Chiu, who also expressed his support for the Hong Kong candidates and their aspirations to contribute to the national aerospace industry.

The recruitment drive, which lasted for three weeks, is part of China’s effort to assemble its fourth intake of astronauts. Out of the fourteen available spots, two will be allocated for payload specialists from Hong Kong and Macau. This marks the first time that candidates from these regions have been considered for such positions by the China Manned Space Agency.

Professor Quentin Parker, director of the space research laboratory at the University of Hong Kong, commented on the stiff competition faced by the candidates. Out of 120 applicants from Hong Kong, only around 10 per cent were shortlisted, highlighting the rigorous selection process employed by the Chinese space agency.

The selection of payload specialists is a critical aspect of the space programme, as these individuals oversee complex and classified on-board equipment, as well as perform tasks such as taking astronautical measurements. As Professor Parker emphasized, the role requires not only qualifications and physical fitness but also the right mindset, mental endurance, and capacity for survival in the challenging environment of space.

The director further explained the significance of choosing competent payload specialists, as any inadequacies can potentially lead to severe consequences. Given the high cost of sending payloads to space, every ounce counts, and it is essential to ensure that individuals sent into space possess the necessary skills and capabilities to fulfil their responsibilities.

Amidst this recruitment drive, Gui Haichao, a professor at Beihang University in Beijing specializing in spacecraft dynamics and control technology for aerospace systems, made history as the first Chinese payload specialist and civilian astronaut to enter space. On Tuesday morning, Gui embarked on the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft, where he will manage and maintain the payload for various scientific experiments.

The inclusion of candidates from Hong Kong and Macau in China’s space programme marks a significant milestone, reflecting the country’s commitment to expanding its space exploration capabilities. As the selection process continues, the hopes and dreams of these candidates are intertwined with the future of the national aerospace industry, as they strive to bring honor to their respective regions and contribute to the ongoing advancement of space exploration.

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