China broadcast a classroom live from its new space station on Dec. 9, aiming to both inspire students and present a friendly picture of the country’s space ambitions.
The three Shenzhou 13 astronauts aboard the Tianhe orbital module connected with 1,420 students on Earth in five classrooms across China in Beijing, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Sichuan Province, Hong Kong and in Macao with the support of relay satellites.
Tens of millions more have taken the 60-minute course through live broadcasts.
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Astronaut Wang Yaping, who last month became the first Chinese woman to embark on a spacewalk, toured Tianhe, starting with dormitories and passing through exercise equipment and dining rooms.
Mission Commander Zhai Zhigang then presented the designs of a suit worn by his teammate Ye Guangfu, which he says can prevent muscle atrophy in a microgravity environment.
Wang Yaping, who on his first space voyage in 2013 aboard Tiangong 1 gave a science lesson to 60 million schoolchildren, then carried out experiments to show the unique environment of space.
Demonstrations included demonstrating myocardial (heart) cell beats and how they are studied in orbit, loss of buoyancy using a tennis ball and water, movement experiments and creating a bubble inside a ball of water to show the inversion of images.
A few selected students also had the opportunity to ask real-time questions in the final minutes, including a question about dreaming in space.
The lesson was meant to be inspiring for its young audience. “I am inspired by their self-discipline and perseverance. I will continue to study and work hard in the field that interests me and make contributions to the country in the future,” said a student from Pui Kiu College in Hong Kong. .
“I hope he can plant the seeds of space and science in children’s hearts, which will one day become towering trees in the future,” teacher Sun Weiqiang told CCTV.
The live lesson from China is important for national and international purposes, said Molly Silk, a PhD student in Chinese space policy at the University of Manchester. “A real-time interactive event with Chinese taikonauts shines a light on the reality of the country’s technological achievements and showcases the skill and utility of its space program. Such an event serves to enhance national pride and encourage young citizens to pursue scientific careers. “
“While such a display further validates China’s position as a space power within the international community, it also presents China as a power that seeks to share its space program for the benefit of mankind,” he said. said Silk.
“An event led by the taikonauts also shows the world the ‘human’ side of China’s space efforts, which provides a friendly contrast to the frequent foreign reports on China’s technological ambitions as a global threat.”
The live lecture was the first in what is supposed to be a series of “Tiangong lectures”. Tianhe was launched in late April and is the first module for China’s space station, following smaller test labs launched in 2011 and 2016.
Two new space station modules are expected to join Tianhe in 2022 to complete China’s T-shaped space station. It is expected to operate in low Earth orbit for at least ten years.
Shenzhou 13 was launched on October 15 Eastern Time, and Zhai, Wang and Ye are scheduled to remain aboard Tianhe until March 2022.
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