Status: Inactive. Born: 1934. Birth Place: Henan.
Fang Guojun, an astronaut in the first Chinese training group of 1971-1972, was born in 1934 in Henan Yu, where his father was a teacher at a private school. His large family suffered greatly during the 1942 floods and locust plagues. On August 15, 1948, the People's Liberation Army freed Fang's village, using his father's school as a barracks, and inspired the 14-year-old boy. In 1949 his father died. Fang joined the Army in order to support his family. He worked first as a messenger, but because of his education was soon promoted as scribe to the illiterate company commander. He was preparing to cross the Yalu River for Korea as a volunteer against the Americans when his orders were cancelled. His educational level resulted in his selection as a pilot trainee.
After physical and mental screening by Soviet advisory group specialists, he began flight training at Chanchun. He began flying in 1953, and continued as an Air Force pilot for 40 years. He encountered many dangerous situations during his long career, including deployment below weather minimums to a flooded airfield in Hangzhou (occasioned by an attempted coup d'état when Mao was moved to the western suburbs of Shanghai for security). During confrontations with the Taiwanese air force over Fujian in 1962, Wan faced a dangerous situation when his engine oil line ruptured, leaving his cabin filled with smoke and covered with oil while in combat maneuvering against enemy aircraft. Fang was able to fly the aircraft to base and land on instruments.
Fang came to the attention of the Air Force leadership in large-scale military exercises in 1964. He further distinguished himself by downing an enemy AQM-34 intelligence aircraft by accidentally colliding with it in clouds in 1964. A year later he downed another drone in Fujian, even though he was part of the screening force. For this he was awarded the Merit Citation, First Class, against his protests. In 1968, under Mao's cultural revolution policy of rotating military units constantly, Fang was redeployed to Guangdong. He was a PLAAF regiment commander at the time of his selection as an astronaut in 1970.
China approved Project 714 on July 14, 1970 to develop the Shuguang manned spacecraft, to be launched in 1973. Shuguang group selection bagan in late 1970. Initial screening resulted 88 candidates from PLA pilots. After further medical and political testing in the first half of 1971, 20 finalists were selected. One candidate did not report for training for reasons that were never divulged. The program was cancelled in late 1971.