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Space diving program reaches for the Earth's stratosphere

By ZHONG NAN and ZHENG YIRAN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-05 08:07

Aviation enthusiasts' adventures are no longer limited to traveling by airplane. They can now rise to the Earth's stratosphere in a helium balloon and fall back in a parachute, as a new space diving program, the first of its kind in China, is bringing new consumer trends into space.

A space dive project, operated by Space Exploration Inc and the Space Dive Organizing Committee, was launched recently in Beijing as China's first near-space program.

The project aims at breaking former vice-president of Google Alan Eusta ce's 2014 world record of a 41.4-kilometer jump, as well as collecting data and dust samples in space to facilitate the research and development of China's aerospace industry.

Were it to succeed in this challenge, China would set up at least three world records in near space-the highest altitude, the longest free fall duration, and the farthest free fall distance.

The challenge aims at flying into the second layer of the atmosphere, the stratosphere, which is a very thin, dry and cold layer. During the journey, a helium balloon will take the challenger to an altitude of 43 km, then, wearing a customized space jump suit, the challenger will return to the earth using a parachute.

The space dive challenge, which is planned to take place in the second half of 2018, will use a helium balloon 200 meters in diameter. Previous operation tests were conducted in the stratosphere over the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the Tibet autonomous region, Qinghai province, and areas along the Belt and Road Initiative.

The sponsor and challenger, Ye Chenguang, who is the president of Space Exploration Inc, broke the Chinese skydiving record in May 2016 by jumping from 30,000 feet and landing within eight minutes at the HALO Jump at Davis Airport, California. He possesses a jumping license from the United States Parachute Association, and is now undergoing astronaut physical training for the challenge.

Last year, the State Council issued a guideline to promote the nation's general aviation industry. The guideline encourages the public to take part in aviation sports activities and space flight experiences, enlarging the group of space program enthusiasts. With the implementation of the government policies, aviation sports are gradually being accepted by the public.

"With the aerospace industry booming among the public, civil-military integration projects will make their own contributions to the nation's space undertakings," said Ouyang Ziyuan, the country's chief scientist for the lunar probe project.

President Xi Jinping has underscored the importance of civil-military integration as a national strategy. The strategy invites the public to get involved with military sectors, which not only meets the demand of military objectives, but improves military cost efficiency as well as national technology upgrading.

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