June 21, 2013
Astronauts Host Physics Lessons Aboard Chinese Space Lab
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Three Chinese astronauts currently orbiting the Earth aboard the Tiangong-1 space lab hosted a series of physics lessons broadcast by the country's state media this week.
According to a report by the Beijing News, thousands of Internet users submitted questions to the astronauts on the Shenzhou 10 mission during a live broadcast, asking them things like how they take a bath in space.
Female astronaut Wang Yaping demonstrated principles of weightlessness by manipulating wobbling globes of water during a lecture. She injected droplets of water into an increasingly larger suspended ball of water, according to a report by the Associated Press. The astronauts also spun gyroscopes and swung a ball on its tether to show how weightlessness affects objects in motion.
Wang playfully showed off some of her kung fu skills to the students, performing the iconic lotus position and saying "In space, we're all kung fu masters."
According to AP, the Xinhua News Agency reported Zhou Jianping, designer-in-chief of China's manned space program, said the live broadcast was "aimed at making space more popular." He said the spirit of science among youth is an important drive for the progress of mankind. Although only 330 grade school students gathered in an auditorium for the demonstration, 60 million viewers were watching the live TV broadcast in their classrooms.
The mission is the second crewed trip to the Tiangong 1, which is a temporary space station that was launched in 2011. This Chinese space station will eventually be replaced by the larger, three-module permanent station Tiangong 2, which is expected to weigh 60 tons and be about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station (ISS).
China launched the three astronauts two weeks ago for a 15-day mission. This will be the longest in-space mission for any Chinese astronauts to date. It is the fifth manned mission for the country since 2003.
China completed its first manual docking of a spacecraft to the Tiangong-1 space lab last year. A three person crew docked the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to the space lab manually, marking another big feat for the country's very young space program. This mission featured China's first female astronaut Liu Yang.
The current mission represents the 10th anniversary of manned space flights for China. The three astronauts on the Shenzhou-10 mission are expected to return home next week.