Chinese astronauts on board the Tiangong space station hold a real-time video dialogue with Hong Kong students on Sept 3, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Astronauts on board China's Tiangong space station took part in a video call on Friday afternoon with students in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
During the live call, which lasted about 20 minutes, the three crew members of the Shenzhou XII mission－Major General Nie Haisheng, who is also the mission's commander, Major General Liu Boming and Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo－greeted participants in Hong Kong and then answered questions from the students about how they conduct experiments, do physical exercise and drink water. They also showed the students different parts of the colossal spacecraft and demonstrated the functions of some equipment.
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The event was co-hosted by the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Hong Kong SAR Government and the China Manned Space Agency.
Before the call, participants watched a video about the country's space station program and the Shenzhou XII mission, and listened to a speech by Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program, about the latest developments in the space station program.
Zhou and several space officials including Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut and now a senior planner, took part in the event at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing via a video link. They also answered questions from Hong Kong residents before the dialogue.
Hong Kong students raise hands to ask Chinese astronauts on board the Tiangong space station questions during a real-time video dialogue with the astronauts, in Hong Kong, Sept 3, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
At the event's main venue in Hong Kong, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR, told attendees she hoped young people in Hong Kong could be inspired by the motherland's achievements in space exploration, cherish their dreams, learn from the astronauts and brave difficulties in the pursuit of science.
Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Agency, said in Beijing the occasion was intended to respond to Hong Kong people's questions concerning the motherland's space endeavors, foster cooperation and communication between the mainland and Hong Kong, encourage and enable Hong Kong youngsters to know about space exploration, and inspire their patriotism and pursuit of adventure and innovation.
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Marco Clark, an aerospace engineering student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said this was an "incredible opportunity" for Hong Kong. Young students passionate in the area should take this opportunity and strive to become the next generation of astronauts, he said.
Timothy Wong, who is also an aerospace engineering student at the university, said the most impressive part of the event was that students like him were talking with the astronauts in real time, and waving to them and seeing them waving back, which he said was a rare opportunity.
Ng Ka-wo, a science teacher at a middle school in the city, said he hoped that the call would not only help students understand the nation's aerospace development, but also encourage them to cultivate a sense of national identity.
Ng expressed his hope that the Hong Kong SAR government could allocate more resources to mathematics, physics and chemistry so that the city can make a greater contribution to the nation's science and technology endeavors.
The Shenzhou XII mission was launched on a Long March 2F carrier rocket that blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on June 17. The astronauts entered the Tiangong space station later that day after the two spacecraft docked with each other, and they became the station's first inhabitants.
The three-month Shenzhou XII mission, the nation's seventh manned space flight, is part of the Tiangong program, which aims to complete a three-component station in a low-Earth orbit before the end of next year.