Space lesson to reach millions

Updated: 2013-06-20 07:37

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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More than 60 million students and teachers at China's 80,000 middle schools will experience a special class delivered by China's first teacher in space from more than 300 kilometers above Earth's surface.

Female astronaut Wang Yaping will carry out fundamental physics experiments onboard the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module at around 10 am on Thursday, the space program said in a release on Wednesday.

She will interact with more than 330 students who will gather at a classroom of the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China in Beijing, according to the space program.

Invited by the Ministry of Education, the group of students includes children of ethnic groups and migrant workers, and student representatives from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

The space lesson will also be broadcast live on China Central Television so that students across the country can watch the class simultaneously.

Students in classrooms that are not equipped with TV sets can listen to the lecture via radio.

A circular issued by the ministry said the lecture will take place from 10:04 am to 10:55 am on Thursday.

Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for the manned space program, told a press conference last week that astronaut Wang will talk about motion and surface tension of liquid in a micro-gravity environment, and she will help students better understand weight, mass and Newton's Laws.

Compared with the lesson given by US astronaut Barbara Morgan in 2007, the lesson given by China's second woman in space will last longer and involve experiments that are more difficult to accomplish, said a space expert who declined to give his name.

"Morgan displayed the daily routine in space, such as drinking a beverage and carrying out physical exercises in space. Wang Yaping will focus more on the explanation of physics theories," he said.

Wu said that the three astronauts on the Shenzhou X mission have prepared carefully for the special lesson. Earlier media reports said the three astronauts have rehearsed several times on Earth in a simulator.

The idea of giving students a lesson from space has received warm feedback online.

Thousands of netizens have submitted questions or posted comments on the website of the manned space program, which is soliciting questions for the astronauts on the Shenzhou X mission.

Questions submitted included how to measure an astronaut's weight and how to distinguish directions in space. Astronauts were also asked about their feelings about time in space and how they use the toilet in the space module.

On Wednesday, the three astronauts of the Shenzhou X mission - commander Nie Haisheng, astronaut Zhang Xiaoguang and astronaut Wang Yaping, said they are in good condition after spending seven days in space.

The spacecraft lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province on June 11.

It conducted a robotic docking with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module two days later. It is scheduled to conduct a manual docking with Tiangong-1 during the second half of the 15-day mission.

(China Daily USA 06/20/2013 page4)