First space lecture opens new horizons for China



Students watch TV screen showing female astronaut Wang Yaping (center), one of

the three crew members of Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, greeting them from China’s space

module Tiangong-1, at the ground classroom set at the High School Affiliated to Renmin

University in Beijing on Thursday of June 20, 2013. A special lecture began on Thursday

morning, given by Wang Yaping aboard China’s space module Tiangong-1 to students on

the Earth. Photo by Wang Yongzhuo


ZHEJIANG  | Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Baochuta 

Experimental School in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, on June 20,

2013. A special lecture began on Thursday morning, given by female astronaut Wang

Yaping aboard China’s space module Tiangong-1 to students on the Earth through a live

video feed system. Over 60 million students from more than 80,000 schools in China

watched the lecture.    Photo by Ju Huanzong


BEIJING | Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at the High School

Affiliated to Beijing Aeronautics and Astronautics University in Beijing, capital

of China, on June 20, 2013.    Photos by Li Wen





  First space lecture

opens new horizons for China


By Fu Shuangqi, Meng Na, Huang Xin, Ren Ke,

Li Baojie, Tian Ying, Shi Shouhe and Han Song


A special lecture began on Thursday morning of June 20, given by a teacher aboard a space module about 340 km above her students on the Earth.

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

“Hello everyone. I am Wang Yaping. I will host the lecture today,” she said, smiling toward a camera onboard the space module Tiangong-1.

Wang and her crew members set off for outer space aboard the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft on June 11. The spacecraft docked with the Tiangong-1 on June 13.

The students she addressed were gathered at the High School Affiliated with Renmin University.

“I was very excited after learning that I could come to this class,” said Luo Jiangyuan, a high school freshman who said he plans to study science in college.

“When I learned about the laws of physics and weightless conditions in class, I had to imagine what would happen. But in today’s class, I’ve been able to see what really happens. It is thrilling,” he said.

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

Nie Haisheng, commander of the crew, made a show of putting his legs into a meditation position while floating in the air. Such a show can only be seen in martial arts movies but unable to be achieved by any Kungfu masters in reality on Earth.

“Thanks to the weightless conditions, we are all masters,” Wang joked.

Wang showed the students how astronauts measure their weight in the orbiter using a special scale, as normal scales operating under the influence of gravity do not work in outer space.

She also conducted several demonstrations to show how “gravity” works in space, using both fixed and mobile gyros to demonstrate physics concepts.

She demonstrated how zero gravity magnifies the surface tension of water by using a metal ring and a bag filled with water to create a ball of water that was suspended in the air.

“I like all these demonstrations, the gyro and water ball ones particularly. They are all impossible on Earth. How wonderful,” said Qian Jianghao, a 10-year-old primary school student.

The students raised a number of questions for the astronauts, asking them how they can tell up from down in space, as well as inquiring about their water recycling system and their view of Earth from the orbiter.

“Through the front windows, we can see Earth and many stars. But we haven’t seen any UFOs,” Wang said.

The stars in space are brighter, but do not twinkle, she said.

“I tell you a wonderful phenomenon: we can see sunrises 16 times a day, as we circle the Earth every 90 minutes,” she said.

At the end of the class, the three astronauts extended their regards to the students.

“I hope all of you will study hard, learn more and contribute to the Chinese dream,” said Nie.

“Outer space is deep and has numerous mysteries. Exploration is limitless and we should work together in this regard,” said Zhang Xiaoguang, one of the crew.

Born in east China’s Shandong Province, the 33-year-old Wang is China’s second female astronaut after Liu Yang, who entered the record books after participating in the Shenzhou-9 mission, which took place in June 2012.

The world’s first teacher in space was Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year-old middle school teacher from the United States. She was aboard the space shuttle Challenger when it disintegrated 73 seconds after takeoff on Jan. 28, 1986. McAuliffe and her other six crewmates were killed.

Barbara Morgan, McAuliffe’s backup for the mission, taught the first lesson in space in 2007, when she was sent to the International Space Station via the space shuttle Endeavor. Via a video feed, she showed students how to exercise and drink water in space.

Millions of ordinary Chinese were as excited as children in the classroom.

Nineteen-year-old Lu Huihui watched the TV live broadcast at the hair salon where she worked as an assistant.

“All the demonstrations are really wonderful and interesting. But, to be honest, I do not get what the teacher talked about, such as those laws of physics,” said the young girl from a rural family who dropped out in her third year at the junior middle school.

“After the lecture, it struck me that I could search a bit about the knowledge of the space on line when I am off,” she said.

Professor Zhang Chunli from Beijing Normal University said Wang’s space lecture is a landmark achievement.

“Space programs used to be hush-hush projects involving only scientists and astronauts. But today, ordinary people, especially young people, turned from spectators to participants, which is of great significance,” she said.

She said she expects the lesson to encourage more young people to engage in scientific exploration.

The space lesson is aimed at making astronomy more popular, as well as inspiring enthusiasm for science, said Zhou Jianping, designer-in-chief of China’s manned space program, who added that the lesson will also help to build experience for similar activities in the future.

“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.”



JIANGXI |   Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Taohua School

in Nanchang, capital of east China’s Jiangxi Province, on June 20, 2013.   Photo by  Zhou Ke


SHENYANG  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Shenyang

Aeronautics and Astronautics University in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s

Liaoning Province,  on June 20, 2013.   Photo by Yang Qing


BEIJING  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Huiwen

No. 1 Primary School in Beijing on June 20, 2013.    Photo by Jin Liwang


BEIJING  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Huiwen

No. 1 Primary School in Beijing on June 20, 2013.     Photo by Jin Liwang


ANHUI  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at the Yangguang

Branch of Tunxilu Primary School in Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province,

on June 20, 2013.    Photo by Liu Junxi


JIANGSU  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Jinchang Foreign

Language Experimental n School in Suzhou, capital of east China’s Jiangsu Province,

on June 20, 2013.   Photo by Hang Xingwei


HUBEI  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Three Gorges

Project Hope Primary School in Zigui County of central China’s Hubei Province,

on June 20, 2013.   Photo by Wang Huifu


ZHEJIANG  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at No. 6 Middle

School in Tongxiang City, east China’s Zhejiang Province, on June 20, 2013.    

Photo by Shen Zhicheng


SHANDONG  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Primary

School Branch of Shunwen Middle School in Jinan, capital of east China’s Shandong

Province, on June 20, 2013.     Photo by Xu Suhui 


TIBET  |  A student watches the live video broadcast of a space lecture at Lhasa Middle

School in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region,

on June 20, 2013.   Photo by Liu Kun


HENAN  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at No. 8 Middle

School in Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan Province, on June 20, 2013.    

Photo by Li Bo


SHANDONG | Teachers and students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture

at the Zhanggezhuang central primary school, which astronaut Wang Yaping once

studied at, in Yantai of east China’s Shandong Province, on June 20, 2013.    

Photo by Shen Jizhong


SHANDONG  | Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at the Zhanggezhuang

central primary school, which astronaut Wang Yaping once studied at, in Yantai of east China’s

Shandong Province, on June 20, 2013.    Photo by Shen Jizhong


SHANDONG  |  Students watch the live video broadcast of a space lecture at the Zhanggezhuang

central primary school, which astronaut Wang Yaping once studied at, in Yantai of east China’s

Shandong Province, on June 20, 2013.    Photo by Shen Jizhong


Students wave goodbye to the three crew members of Shenzhou-10 spacecraft after

the space lecture, at the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China

in Beijing on June 20, 2013. A special lecture began Thursday morning, given by

a teacher aboard China’s space module Tiangong-1 to students on the Earth.  

Photo by Wang Yongzhuo





Lecture from space 

inspires children’s dreams


By Wang Ruoyao, Zhou Yan, Wang Juebin, Cao Guoguang and Zhang Jingpin

While watching a live broadcast of a science lecture delivered by an astronaut aboard the space module Tiangong-1 on Thursday morning of June 20, Wang Lutian was drawing a colorful rocket with crayons in his classroom.

“Moon…stars…a rocket to the sky,” Wang explained his work in a cheerful voice. The 10-year-old is a mentally disabled student at a special school in downtown Beijing.

Wang and more than 100 other disabled students watched a lecture hosted by China’s first teacher in space Wang Yaping, one of the three crew members of the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, which was launched on June 11 and docked with the Tiangong-1 on June 13.

When the three astronauts appeared on the TV screen, the children burst into applause.

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.

“Some of our students have shown strong interest in space science. They asked me if they could watch the lecture from space several days ago,” said Zhang Yini, a teacher at the school.

Scientific knowledge has helped open a window for the children to know about the world, Zhang said.

The lecture also inspired enthusiasm for the universe and science among youngsters living on the ”roof of the world.”

“I was most impressed by the demonstration of the ’water ball’ that illustrated the surface tension of water in a gravity-free environment. It’s truly amazing,” said Rigzin Jigme Doje, a high school freshman in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Describing himself as a lover of physics, Doje said the lecture reinforced his dream of becoming a physicist.

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?”

While 60 million students and teachers at 80,000 middle schools across the country watched the lecture on TV, principal Yue Deming and his students at Zhangjiagou Primary School missed out on the experience.

“We can’t afford a TV set, let alone high-tech educational devices like telescopes,” said Yue, who is also the only teacher at the village school in north China’s Hebei Province.

However, the 57-year-old Yue gave his 18 students a simplified ”space class” on Thursday morning. ”If you had the chance to explore the universe, what would you do first?” he asked.

“The sun in our eyes is as small as a plate. I’m wondering what the Earth we live on looks like from space,” said student He Jiayue.

Student Bai Jingyi said she dreams of walking on the moon someday. ”My storybook says Chang’e (a fairy maiden from Chinese folklore who flies to the moon) and a cute rabbit live there. I want to play with them.” she said.

While the children at Zhangjiazhou Primary School imagined space in their mind, 330 select students at a top Beijing high school were able to interact with Wang through a live video feed system.

The stark contrast in education access between students in rural and urban areas reflects China’s uneven development, said Gu Li, a researcher dedicated to primary and secondary school education in east China’s Jiangsu Province.

“Basic science education is a must for today’s youngsters. But in China it remains a distant dream for disadvantaged children,” said Gu, referring to those who migrate with parents, live in poverty or have disabilities.

Wang Lihong, a social worker from a Beijing-based NGO that provides assistance to the migrant population, said many schools for migrant workers’ children are in dire need of TV sets, computers and projectors to facilitate teaching.

“Although students there have a strong interest in natural sciences, they have very limited opportunities to feel science in person, rather than learning from textbooks,” Wang said.

He urged the government to boost the accessibility of science and technology museums and other learning institutions for disadvantaged children.

“A decade after the first Chinese man was sent into orbit, it’s time to turn our attention to the desire for knowledge within our next generation,” Gu said.




One small step to trigger

more space exploration


By Yan Hao

The success of a 40-minute lecture given by China’s three astronauts in low earth orbit on Thursday of June 20 made female Wang Yaping the world’s second teacher in space.

The human being’s attempt to explore space has never been an easy journey, even for a space lecture decades after the first man orbited the earth.

Christa McAuliffe, one of the first trained to give such a lecture, sacrificed herself in the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 on the way to fulfill the mission. It was 21 years later that McAuliffe’s backup, Barbara Morgan, finished the job.

China’s first space lecture has a similar intention with NASA’s Teacher in Space Project — to inspire students’ curiosity about space and spur people’s interest in space exploration.

More than 60 million Chinese students, from metropolitans to villages, from mainland to Taiwan, watched the live lecture which was made possible via space-based telecommunication technology.

No one can estimate how much influence and potential the space show will bring to Chinese children. Many young researchers for China’s manned space missions, now around 30 years old, witnessed the country’s first astronaut Yang Liwei’s milestone trip when they were students ten years ago.

However, as a latecomer in space, China has no reason to be complacent. Just as the female lecturer said before launch, “we are all students in facing the vast universe.”

The planet we live on is so tiny that astronauts have to travel for about 50,000 years to reach the nearest star system to our sun, based on human beings’ current technology.

The way that we educate the next generation will determine human beings’ progress to explore the universe.

The space lecture is a spark, a small step that can accelerate progress, because we believe that our descendants will be more intelligent.

Thus, by more science popularization activities, children with space dreams, no matter how unimaginable they are, might one day make breakthroughs in technology that Mr Einstein had never dreamed about.  





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