China / Innovation

Female astronaut brings changes to space mission

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-06-17 18:53

JIUQUAN - As a member of the crew for China's latest space docking mission, Liu Yang became the country's first female astronaut entering space when Shenzhou-9 blasted into space atop a Long March-2F rocket on Saturday evening.

Her presence in the ship, however, required a set of adjustments to China's space program to meet the needs of a woman.

New spacesuits for ladies

"We developed a new series of spacesuits for female astronauts", said Li Tanqiu, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system department.

Li said the new suit fits well and will enable swift movements, especially of the fingers.

Besides spacesuits, astronauts also brought special underwear and sports suits, according to Li.

In addition, two sets of physical exercise training suits had already been placed in Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, the space lab module launched last September with which Shenzhou-9 is supposed to dock in the next few days.

There is also a curtain installed in Tiangong-1 to protect astronauts' privacy when they are changing clothes, said Li.

More veg

"Astronauts rely on good food to focus on work," said Chen Shanguang, general director of the astronaut system department.

For female astronauts, Chen's fellow crew had introduced low-fat food and added more vegetables to the menu, which also features desserts, chocolate and food with blood-enriching effects.

For this 13-day mission, the spaceship is stocked with over 50 kinds of food and different menus will rotate every four days, added Chen.

Chen also believes the food for China's space program should take full advantage of the country's traditional cooking.

Flexibility in time

Another notable change is the enhanced flexibility in the crew's time management mechanism during this mission.

Previously, the schedule was detailed to each minute, while astronauts can this time adjust the arrangements in accordance with their own conditions and routines of their bodies.

Medical officer Gai Yuqing said the ground headquarters will monitor astronauts' daily routines and remind them of the proper sleeping hours following Beijing time.

"If too much work starts to deprive their sleeping hours, we will instruct them to give up some of the tasks to ensure enough sleep", said Gai.

Games & experiments

Besides hard work, astronauts were also advised to have fun during the mission.

They can use a video link to chat with the ground and their family members within each bedroom, said Chen, adding that designers had planted many "surprises" inside the lab.

"Discovering unexpected items by themselves could add more fun to living in space", said Chen Shanguang.

According to the general director, these treasure-hunting games will also be recorded to analyze people's ability in solving puzzles in gravity-free conditions.

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