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China to expand intl astronauts exchange

Updated: Jul 28,2016 10:01 AM     Xinhua

BEIJING — China will expand international exchange in the training of astronauts in a bid to push it closer to becoming a space power, an official said on July 27.

Li Xinke of the Astronaut Center of China made the remarks while briefing an international training mission for astronauts. Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu participated in the mission.

Ye is the first Chinese to receives CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills) training, an advanced training course for astronauts, organized by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The training took place in the Sa Grutta underground caves, Sardinia, Italy. Prospective astronauts from Japan, Russia, Spain and the United States also took part in the training.

“In the future, China will strengthen international communication in astronaut training while also relying on our own efforts,” Li said. It is not clear whether further Chinese astronauts will be selected for CAVES training, added Li.

Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the center, said that China was considering the possibility of starting its own CAVES program, and had examined several potential sites.

Ye and five others spent several days underground from July 1-7, simulating a mission exploring another planet. CAVES training puts them in environments that simulate spaceflight, as well as improving leadership, teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

“It’s dark, cold and damp, with the humidity reaching 99 percent,” said Ye.

“It’s also narrow, strange, and isolated from the outside world.”

He recalled how they struggled to save a teammate stuck in a small grotto within the caves.

Despite this, Ye thought the biggest challenges were cultural and linguistic differences, which they strived to overcome.

“Self-confidence and mutual trust are the best ways of coping with the various dangers,” he said.

Ye’s performance in the training was given considerable recognition from the ESA, and they gave Ye the honor of naming a newly discovered cave branch.

Ye named it the “Guang Ming [meaning light] Gallery.”

“In darkness, Guang Ming stands for hope,” he said.