BEIJING, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Nie Haisheng has always been training hard and getting ready to undertake his next assigned space mission. He adheres to his principle of what a true serviceman would be.
In the past 24 years, Nie was tasked with three of China's pioneering spaceflights, on standby for another three, and became the country's first astronaut to have accomplished a 100-day stay in the near-Earth orbit and the first commander of a crew to have lived and worked in China's space station core module.
The space hero was awarded the August 1 Medal ahead of the 95th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which was the past Monday.
Nie was selected into the country's first team of astronauts in 1998 and stood out to be one of the final three candidates for China's first manned space mission in 2003, in which his teammate Yang Liwei was launched into space.
To give up, however, is the last thing Nie would consider. He soon devoted himself to a more formidable training. He stayed in the simulator cabin for seven to eight hours a day.
His determination and hard work finally paid off. He was selected to task the country's second crewed mission in October of 2005. As the oldest one of China's astronauts, he celebrated his 41st birthday in space.
Yang described Nie as being "persistent, dauntless and prudent." "He doesn't talk much. He is a hard-working and cooperative person," Yang said.
Nie was promoted to major general in 2011. And in 2013, Nie completed a 15-day space journey in the Shenzhou-10 mission, during which the veteran astronaut conducted a manual space docking. For that task, he implemented over 2,000 ground simulations to achieve 100 percent accuracy.
"Nie is strict with himself," female astronaut Wang Yaping in that mission once said in an interview. "With him, we have nothing to worry about."
Nie did not opt for retirement upon the merits of two spaceflights, the title of "Hero Astronaut," and an asteroid named after him.
He went on training with his younger peers in the same intensity. A 6-hour dive in deep water with a 160-kg suit and the centrifuge-induced pressure eight times his own bodyweight were definitely challenging, not easy for a man in his fifties.
In 2021, three Chinese astronauts led by Nie, the second-time commander, completed their three-month mission for China's space station construction.
The mission laid a foundation for the continued construction and operation of the country's space station, which is to be completed this year.
Born in 1964 in central China's Hubei Province, Nie hails from a humble financial background. He is a son of farmers and has six elder sisters and a younger brother.
Showing a great passion for planes in childhood, he was enrolled as a fighter pilot trainee by the PLA Air Force in 1984, when he graduated from high school.
In 1989, Nie displayed his mettle when he was flying a mission alone and encountered a sudden engine shutdown. He tried all possible rescue attempts and didn't abandon the plane until it was only four to five hundred meters above the ground. He secured a last-minute escape.
"Flying is my career, my mission," said Nie. "I'm proud of it, either being a general or a soldier."
"I'm always ready for the next task so long as I'm capable," said Nie. ■