Born to a poor farming family in Heilongjiang province , Liu Boming realised at an early age there were two keys to success: study hard and learn to solve problems. He did both, and it paved the way for him to join China's first echelon of astronauts. Born in 1966 in Yian county, Colonel Liu was the second child of six. He studied hard and entered the best high school in the county when he was 17. Living 10km from school, he would have been forced to pay 5-10 yuan a month for lodging and school meals. But to save his family the expense, he would wake at 4am and ride his bicycle on a muddy road, even though temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius before dawn and after sundown are the norm in Heilongjiang in winter. His teacher wanted him to take the university entrance examination, but the brawny youth was recruited by the People's Liberation Army air force in 1985. 'You get free food and clothing in the army,' he argued. His father told Xinhua of his son's love of problem-solving even as a primary school pupil. 'He even took apart my radio, which was the most expensive appliance in our home, to look at all the parts,' Liu Zhisheng said. 'But he could reassemble it and got it to work again. He also built an electric fan and other things, and they would all work.' As an adult, his intellectual curiosity has been his driving force. He is known as the best English speaker on the team - quite a feat after scoring zero on his high school entrance exam, his middle school teacher, Zhang Shu, told Xinhua. 'It was because Liu was studying in rural secondary schools, where English lessons were offered for only half a year through the three-year course,' Mr Zhang said. 'But Liu threw everything he had into catching up with his classmates.' Neil Armstrong's line, 'That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind', inspired him to strive to become an astronaut. In 1998, the dream came true. Although he missed out on the Shenzhou VI mission in 2005, the same boy who rode his bicycle in terrible weather to save money continued to work hard. It has finally paid off. Problem solved.