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Zhou Xianghu: Every Astronaut has a Dream of Going Home

Release time: 2019-05-13 Source:

The sci-fi blockbuster "Wandering Earth" has made a box office hit, and correspondingly, has also aroused public concern about space flight and the future. Today, we will tell you the story of an astronaut living in real lives. His name is Zhou Xianghu, born in Xiangtan, Hunan Province in October 1978. He is currently an engineer in the project construction headquarters of Wenchang Launching Site. He once participated in the whole process of the construction of the new-generation space launch site in China. Nearly blinded as had been,, he succeeded in building up the Babel Tower for the two types of carrier rockets, Long March 5 and Long March 7 .


The whole world was startled by a sound of ignition. On June 25, 2016, the Long March 7 carrier rocket made its perfect debut and Wenchang Space Launching Site also made a stunning coming-out.


Looking at the high-stood lofty tower, there's one man who's vision is both blurred and clear. It is blurred, for his left eye does not have any light sense at all, and his right eye has a naked vision of only 0.04. Itis clear, because he has once witnessed the launch site coming into reality from blueprint, walking to the world from the small town of Longlow.


Work Hard to Open up "Lifeline" for the Construction of Field Projects


After graduation from the university, Zhou Xianghu joined a grass-root-level engineering company. In February 2009, when he learned that the base will undertake the construction task of Wenchang Launching Site, as one majored in engineering, he volunteered to come to Hainan together with his soldier comrades bearing their own dreams, who thus became the first constructors for the new-generation space launching sites in China, the small "screws" attached onto the space industry. He’s been staying here for seven years.  


Hainan is a holiday paradise for tourists. But in the eyes of pioneers, it is studded with bramble and coconut forests, mires and marshes, mosquitos, pests and venomous snakes, and typhoon and storms everywhere.


It was extremely hard to start a pioneering job. Every rainy day, the ground got damp, the clothes became mildewed, and the 6-square-meters plunk-made worker’s shed just felt like a steamer room, wherein the one same desk was used by Zhou Xianghu and his soldier comrades both for working during the daytime, and for taking rest as a bed by laying a summer mat thereon in the evening. During their survey of the topography, landform and coordinates boundaries, Zhou Xianghu shuttled through bushes and jungles carrying with measuring equipment all day long, and traveled to and fro in swamps and paddy fields, and had mosquitoes, pests and leeches bit swellings all over his body. His skin began to peel off in the hot sun, and his feet was even blistered because of long-distance hiking.


On one occasion, Zhou Xianghu walked in front to "open the path". When he passed a wetland, he thought it was a puddle and until he stepped in he was aware that it was silt. His whole body began to sink, and was drowned to the level of the waist in seconds. He immediately reminded the comrades behind him to pay attention to their safety, and his comrades quickly managed to pull him out with a stick. Despite ending in scare rather than in real danger, he had his shoes trapped in the mud which are by now still buried under the transit track.


"Local people call us, the pioneering officers and soldiers as "migrant worker troops" and "contractors". I think these names are very appropriate. Our post is the where the construction site is, and the site itself is the battlefield."  Zhou Xianghu said with a smile, "I don't care about all the hardship or tiredness, nor the and sunburnt. The most important thing is to build a good project."


In this way, he and his comrades began by digging the first shovel of earth and burying the first pile, starting from scratch and working hard on their pioneering work. It took only one month for them to complete the task of delimiting the boundary fence of more than 10 kilometers for the construction site, for which nearly 700 boundary piles were buried and reconnaissance of more than 16,000 Mu (Chinese acres) of land were completed, thus opening up the "lifeline" for the water and electricity supply for the engineering construction of the site.


Poorer Vision Never Makes Lower Working Standards


However, the wings for Zhou Xianghu's pursuit of dreams were broken immediately after being unfolded.


At the time when 2011 was witnessing the end of its summer and beginning of the fall, the construction of the launching site entered the stage of conclusive up-hill fighting endeavouring for better control of time, progress and quality. More than 150 major projects had been started one after another. And the construction of launching towers for Long March No. 7 and Long March No. 5 which required the most complex technologies and the highest quality was also put under reinforced implementation. As a site management representative, Zhou Xianghu always held fast to the construction site just like a nail rivetted there.


However, due to long-term exposure to intense sunlight, welding arc damage and overwork, Zhou Xianghu, who was originally highly myopic, unfortunately suffered amotio retinae, resulting in permanent blindness of his left eye, and the his right eye had a naked vision of 0.04 and a corrected vision of only 0.25.


He thus was faced with a choice of life: accept another job arranged by the organization and superiors for himself, or just stop and take rest from then on?


"But it was hard to have myself torn apart from the construction site, the launching site and the launching tower that had just commenced with the first pile." After a short period of treatment and recovery, Zhou Xianghu asked the organization to bring him back to his original post. "I  shall stick to what I’d chosen, even if I would sacrifice the other eye to it, I won’t regret it."


When he was back, he faced much more difficulties than he had imagined. Because the eyes were still in recovery, red and swollen as they were, even when he was at meal, tears would keep streaming down his face all the time when exposed to the rising steam. And exposure to sun and the sea wind would cause his eyes even more afflicted.


"But I want to prove to everyone that, although my vision gets poorer, never the standard of my work will." He worked even more diligently and harder.


There was so much data in clusters that none of them should be mistaken. To make sure he was doing this right, he carried a magnifying glass with him. His eyes were sticking to the drawings to read line by line, and comprehend little by little. After reading for a few minutes, he would close his eyes because of the aches, keep the data in mind and continue to read after he succeeded in memorizing it. In this way, he simply printed into his mind the drawings that may occupy two workstations which when stacked up were as high as over 1 meter one by one, forcing himself to be turned into "living drawings".


There were tens of thousands of parts and components in the tower structure. Unacceptability in quality of even a single screw may cause undermining problems for launching. The two launching stations consist of hundreds of hole piles, among which the deepest reached 20 meters and the shallowest had 10 meters, therefore it must be verified that at the bottom of the pile it was free from any residual water, silt gravel, or steel deflection before the casting work began. After each pile was inspected by quality inspectors and supervisors, Zhou Xianghu would insist on that he wear rain boots, bite in mouth the flashlights, and hold the steel reinforced cages to go down to the bottom of the pile for inspection in person. The hole pile was only more than 1 meter wide in diameter, and was dark, humid, anoxic and sultry inside, where hands and feet were easy to be cut broken.


We all call him the tiger”, said Zhang Songlin, the chief person for the Hainan Project Department of some Installation Corps, it is not just because he has a “tiger” in Zhou Xianghu’s name (wherein “hu” means “tiger”), but also from his tenacity and courageousness that was touching to many people.


Guilty for His Family, but Conscientious to the Launching Site


1m, 10m, 50m, 80m, and the body capping... Attended by Zhou Xianghu and his comrades, the tower rose straight up from the ground. "It's my best pleasure to see her grow taller and stronger every day." Zhou Xianghu's calm tone was full of tenderness. He regarded the tower as his another "daughter".


With this feeling, during the past seven years, he has personally inspected more than 15,000 tons of steel bars, more than 11,000 tons of profiled steel, more than 90,000 cubic meters of concrete and more than 9,000 meters of steel column welds without making any mistakes, and also participated in exploring and innovating 12 new construction technologies and processes. He was in charge of the supervision for two launching stations, which were rated as an excellent project for the quality and safety inspection performed in the whole army...


Although taking the launching site as home, Zhou Xianghu felt indebted the other home. His father, suffered from uremia for many years, but until his death in early 2015, Zhou Xianghu had failed to spare time to take care of him; his mother, under the attack from sciatica from time to time, could only won his comfort on the phone; and his wife, having been in marriage with him for 13 years, so far still lives somewhere separated from him, scarcely has the chance for reunion with him.


And his daughter’s now in the age for junior high school, and the father and daughter have spent aggregately less than a year to get together. "The first time I met her was when she was born, and the second time when I met her, she was already being old enough to talk and walk, and then, she went to a kindergarten..." Zhou Xianghu returned home for recuperation in 2011, and that was the longest time he spent with his daughter. "It happened to be my birthday when I went home. I asked her to blow candles with me when eating the cake. But my daughter said, ‘I won't blow it for I know Daddy you fear darkness’, and all of a sudden she fell into my arms, with tears dropping down on my arms.” When it came to his daughters, Zhou Xianghu was almost choked.


Now, whenever there is a chance, Zhou Xianghu will try his best to make up for his family, get round to talk with his daughter, and make Hunan cuisine he adepts in for his family when they get together.


Although feeling guilty, Zhou Xianghu regards it as worthwhile to devote everything when it occurs to him that the launching tower built under his supervision would launch the large rockets and manned space stations of our country into the space, and on the basis of that, China's space exploring would begin its expedition to the farther space.


Coconut tree, the most common tree in the launching site, which is ordinary but full of treasures and bears fruit all the year round. It is tenacious and outstands numerous typhoons. The pioneers of the launching site like Zhou Xianghu, are just like these coconut trees, profoundly cherishing the belief of "rooted in the island and building dreams for space flight" into this beloved land laying under their feet, and only by means of testing of storms and winds will Wenchang Launching Site emerge in fruitfulness.


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