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For trip of a lifetime, years of hard work
By Su Qiang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-13 05:52

Exciting and exotic as a space journey seems, getting up there is anything but easy going.

Only astronauts who survive the rigorous training, rigid assessment criteria and arduous drills can get onto a shortlist for a mission.

It takes three to four years to train an astronaut during which trainees among other things familiarize themselves with astronomy, space technology and participate in simulated missions.

In addition, they should be proficient in using all on-board systems and technical equipment.

Apart from mandatory courses such as astronomy and aerodynamics, trainees are also taught subjects as varied as advanced mathematics, English and even philosophy.

The process to get a trainee physically up to task usually includes two different types of training normal and special. The former involves physical exercises or gymnastics to enhance general fitness while the latter is to train certain muscle groups such as the chest and limbs.

This training lasts as long as the last days before the mission.

As the lift-off day approaches, training is done in a tightly-enclosed and specifically-designed programme centre, where some activities such as smoking or meeting friends and family are strictly prohibited.

To see how trainees react to unexpected situations, they are put through exercises in a round, 8-metre-high cylinder spinning at a speed of 100 kilometres per hour and, at the same time, answer questions from trainers.

Equally important is psychological training since astronauts could suffer from stress, anxiety or other such disorders due to the mentally-demanding nature of the task.

(China Daily 10/13/2005 page3)

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