Shenzhou 10 Astronaut Beams Lesson From Space

After the launch of the Shenzhou 10 on June 11 and the spacecraft’s successful docking with the experimental Tiangong-1 space station/laboratory module two days later, China’s second female astronaut in space Wang Yaping delivered the country’s first “space class” to students back home via live video yesterday. China Daily reports:

A special lecture began Thursday morning, given by a teacher aboard a space module about 340 km above her students on Earth, the first such attempt by Chinese.

Female astronaut Wang Yaping, one of the three crew members of Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, greeted about 330 primary and middle school students at a Beijing high school, through a live video feed system.

[...]More than 60 million students and teachers at about 80,000 middle schools across the country are also watching the live broadcast on TV.

[...]The lesson is aimed at making space more popular, as well as inspiring enthusiasm for the universe and science, according to Zhou Jianping, designer-in-chief of China’s manned space program, who added that the lesson will also accumulate experience for similar larger activities.

“The spirit of science of the youth is an important drive for the progress of mankind,” said Zhou. “Space activities can help them build up the spirit of seeking science and facing challenges. [Source]

During the lecture, Wang performed a series of demonstrations, answered student questions, and sparked much conversation in cyberspace. From CNN:

More than 60 million students across China watched the lecture on China’s state broadcaster CCTV as Wang demonstrated Newton’s second law of motion (force equals mass times acceleration) and the surface tension of water.

Wang fielded questions from students that ranged from whether the team had seen any space junk or even UFOs, to the efficacy of weight scales in space.

The demonstration drew a spirited response on social media in China, with comments on Weibo — China’s equivalent of Twitter — ranging from enthusiastic support for the country’s space program, to questioning the cost of the Shenzhou-10 program.

“The U.S. used to be proud of their space class, (but) now we’ve made it, too!” one user posted. “We should be proud of this. What others have, we have it too.” [Source]

More on the lesson from The Guardian:

Wang Yaping demonstrated principles of weightlessness and took questions live from among the 330 schoolchildren gathered at a Beijing auditorium during the 51-minute lesson from aboard the Tiangong 1 space station. Her fellow crew members Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang answered questions about living, working and staying fit in space.

During one playful moment, Nie adopted the mythical cross-legged lotus position familiar to all fans of Chinese martial arts films.

“In space, we’re all kung fu masters,” Wang remarked.

In a later demonstration resembling a magic show, Wang injected droplets into an increasingly larger suspended ball of water, drawing impressed exclamations and polite applause from the students present, while another 60 million watched the live TV broadcast from their classrooms. The astronauts also spun gyroscopes and swung a ball on its tether to show how weightlessness affects objects in motion. [Source]

Space.com has posted a segment of the lecture:

Xinhua reports from a gathering of disabled students in Beijing and another of Tibetan schoolchildren in Lhasa, describing the student dialogue that the “space class” inspired:

Wang lectured about motion in micro-gravity environments and the surface tension of liquid in space, as well as the concepts of weight, mass and Newton’s Law, illuminating her speech with various demonstrations.

[...]“Zero gravity!” student Qian Shaohong shouted when he saw astronaut Nie Haisheng making a show of crossing his legs into a meditation posture in mid-air.

The autistic child went on to clearly explain the process of launching a spacecraft to his classmates whiling disassembling a spacecraft model on his desk.

[...]The lecture also prompted other Tibetan schoolchildren to relate the mysterious world of outer space to their hometown.

Some of them raised questions like “can Tibetan caterpillar fungus (a precious traditional medicine) grow in space?” and “will a spacecraft sent from Tibet reach space faster?” [Source]

U.S. objections to China playing a role in the International Space Station has barred them from participation, but China’s domestic program has demonstrated serious solo ambitions. For more on the Shenzhou 10 mission, see Space.com’s ongoing coverage. Also see prior CDT coverage of China’s space program.