Science

Distance learning: Chinese astronauts teach kids science lessons from space

By Randell Suba , Jun 21, 2013 11:19 AM EDT
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What can be a better way to teach science than give a lecture right from a spacecraft orbiting Earth? That is what the Chinese astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-10 did straight from the Tiangong-1 space module on June 20.

Wang Yaping, the second woman from China to go in orbit, and Nie Haisheng demonstrated weightlessness while the other crew member filmed the lesson and beamed it down to Earth to be seen by more than 60 million students in China through the state-run television.

The astronauts also answered questions from the students that range from curiosity about unidentified flying objects, frying an egg, how to take a bath, junks in space and how it feels like to be weightless.

"From the window, we can see the beautiful Earth and the sun, the moon and the stars, but we haven't seen the UFO. As we are now in outer space without the atmosphere, we can see the stars shining brightly, but they do not twinkle," Wang replied to a question about stars and UFOs as quoted by the journal Space.

The lectures from space went trending on China's version of the Twitter called the Weibo. Some people were proud and others were questioning the cost of the space mission.

China launched the Shenzhou-10 on June 11 and docked with the Tiangong-1, an experimental space module that is expected to remain in service for three more months.

Wang and the two other Chinese astronauts are on a 15-day mission in orbit to test the docking capabilities and rendezvous skills in space.

"What we have seen more than anything else is a truly long-term commitment to space that dates back at least 25 years, and a sustained interest during those 25 years," emphasized Dean Cheng of a policy research group based in Washington DC.

The current space mission the Shenzhou-10 is the fifth for China since 2003. It makes China only the third country to send manned missions using their own spacecraft following the footsteps of the United States and Russia.

As Wang demonstrated how water blobs behave in space, others wonder why China's space program are conquering new heights and look on the rearview mirror on the U.S. program lagging behind.

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