We may be familiar with the excellent series of experiments carried out by the likes of NASA astronaut Don Pettit and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station, but now a second orbital outpost is getting in on the science outreach act.
Wang Yaping, Chinese astronaut (or “taikonaut”) and second Chinese woman in space, has held the nation’s first orbital classroom lesson onboard the Tiangong-1 (“Heavenly Palace 1″) module in an effort to boost the appeal of space science among schoolkids. The 33 year-old military pilot took questions live from 330 children who watched her inject floating spheres of water with air and spin pendulums to simulate orbits.
Wang was launched to the Chinese prototype space station on the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft with Nie Haisheng, 48, and Zhang Xiaoguang, 47, on June 11 and docked with the orbiting module two days later. The mission is expected to last 15 days.
China is “going it alone” in space as NASA is banned from working with the nation because of fears of the transfer of technologies. The Chinese space program is a huge source of pride that has seen a steady pace of progress culminating in their first man in space in 2003, first spacewalk in 2008 and now its first manned space station prototype is being inhabited for the longest period yet.
There are calls to motivate a new cooperation between NASA, the international community and China in space, but it looks like the nation is doing pretty well without an international partnership.
So, as Wang Yaping demonstrated Thursday morning, microgravity lectures are no longer exclusive to the partners of the International Space Station.