Scientists at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center are preparing to launch the country's second space laboratory. The Long March 2F carrier rocket will take the Tiangong-2 space lab into orbit within the next few days.
Strong winds in the Gobi desert are unwelcome for any launch mission, as rapid changes in direction would create enormous air pressure for high speed rocket flight. The aerographer, Wang Xia analyzes the weather conditions to ensure safety. She can still recall the day she first arrived at the base.
"I took the train from Sichuan to the launch center two years ago. First there was a lot of green, then the trees started to disappear. As I got closer to the base there wasn't even any grass in sight, just sand. It can be depressing," said Wnag Xia, aerographer of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
The story of those who work in the desert reflects the spirit of China's space program: an unwavering determination to persist. As China's space program progresses, many young people have made the decision of settle down here, like Tang Yan from the fueling department. He has to put in overtime as the launch date gets close.
"After the rocket reaches the launch pad, it is our job to fuel the boosters prior to the launch. We have to double-check all of the docking ports on the rocket to ensure there won't be any leakage during fueling. We also have to cool down the fuel to about 5 degrees Celsius, 48 hours before the launch," said Tang Yan, engineer of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Tiangong-2 was originally built as a back up to China's first space laboratory -- the Tiangong-1 -- that went into orbit in 2011. The Tiangong-2 is similar in size to the Tiangong-1, but boasts a larger payload capacity, better living quarters, and new communication technologies on board.
"There is still a lot of preparation work that needs to be done before the launch. Transmitting information from Tiangong-2 to the test center is crucial during the pre-launch drills," said Liu Zhanqing, engineer of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
"Tens of thousands of people are helping to prepare the space lab for launch, including thousands of people working at other locations across the country," said Wang Fei,engineer of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.