Matthias Maurer, 48, has been learning Chinese for six years and has a Chinese name, Ma Tian. "It means a horse in the sky who wants to fly very high." The German wanted to go high enough: space, China Space Station.
Ma Tian is an ESA astronaut and an expert in space materials. Before joining ESA in 2010, his experience was already "international" and he studied in Germany, Britain, France, Spain, and other countries.
In 2012, Ma Tian served as the head of the European Astronaut Center's cooperation project with China. From that year on, he began to study the Chinese language
and learn Chinese characters. Chinese is not easy to learn, but Ma Tian thinks it is "very important" to learn it well.
"Just as astronauts from all countries must learn Russian if they want to work on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, they will also use Chinese when working on Chinese spacecraft or space station in the future." "I hope to work with astronauts from China and all over the world on the Chinese Space Station in the future." Ma Tian said.
He even thought about what he would do when he entered the space station: participating in missions inside and outside the cabin, conducting various kinds of experiments, operating and maintaining the space station, and connecting with European ground video.
Last summer, Ma Tian and an Italian female astronaut, who was also learning Chinese, participated in the maritime lifesaving training organized by the Chinese side in Yantai, Shandong Province. Training subjects include autonomous cabin exit at sea, survival at sea, the rescue of search and rescue vessels at sea and helicopter suspension rescue at sea. These training tests astronauts' will quality, team cooperation, and combat ability.
Ma Tian found that training in China was "very different" from other places. "For example, when I was trained by an American organization, everyone stayed in a hotel and everyone lived his own life. Sometimes I train with two or three astronauts and sometimes I train alone. In China, "we live in a house with 16 other Chinese astronauts, eat together, train together and walk and chat together on the beach in our spare time. Only two or three days later, I felt like I was part of a big family.