China / Sci-Tech

'Gravity' inspires Chinese space scientists

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-03-06 17:24

BEIJING - A Chinese spaceship plays a key part in Dr. Ryan Stone's thrilling journey back to Earth in the Oscar-winning film "Gravity."

In real life, the chief designer of China's spaceships found the film more than merely entertaining; it was "very inspiring."

Zhang Bonan, chief designer of the country's spaceship program, told Xinhua on Thursday that he had a professional interest in the movie.

As a national legislator, he is in Beijing attending the ongoing annual parliamentary session, and was happy to discuss how "Gravity" both reflects and affects his work in the week in which it won seven Oscars, including the heavyweight Best Director award.

"I am glad a foreign film portrays China's space program," he said. "It is a good promotion of us.

"The parts in the film about China's space station and spaceship are largely fictional. But I got a few ideas from them."

For instance, it is important to prepare for the threats from space debris, especially on the near-Earth orbit, he said.

In the film, pieces of debris hit a U.S. shuttle and completely change the fate of four astronauts, including the only survivor of the crash, Dr. Stone, played by Sandra Bullock.

Although the film's presentation of the waste matter floating about in space is a bit too dramatic, such accidents might happen if human beings do not keep the near-Earth orbit uncluttered, Zhang said.

Scientists have made efforts in this regard. Carrier rockets are designed to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up after finishing their tasks.

Tiangong-1, China's space lab currently under operation, will have enough fuel to re-enter the atmosphere after its mission ends, according to Zhang.

"This film not only shows us the beauty of space but also the danger. Manned space programs are highly risky," he noted.

There are other details in "Gravity" that interest the 52-year-old space engineering expert.

In the film, the U.S. astronaut experiences great difficulty in entering China's space station from outside. In reality, that maneuver would be almost impossible.

"I think, when improving design in the future, we should think about how to enable a quicker and easier entry into the space station when there is an emergency," Zhang said.

Other Chinese space scientists shared similar opinions about the film.

Liang Xiaohong, Party chief of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told Xinhua that he liked its imagination and creativity.

"In my list, this is the best ever space film," he said.

Ye Peijian, a top scientist with the Chang'e-3 program, the country's lunar probe mission, said he is glad that a space film has proved popular.

"A film like this is an efficient and lovely way to introduce complicated space science to ordinary people," Ye believes.

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