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Hong Kong youths revel in ‘surreal’ talk to space

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)

Hong Kong's young people were pumped after having an "incredible" and "surreal" video call beamed from outer space on Friday by Chinese astronauts in the Tiangong space station.

During the video call, part of a seminar featuring the nation's aerospace development, students and residents of Hong Kong were shown life in outer space and had their questions on space answered by the three orbiting taikonauts – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, crew members of the spacecraft Shenzhou 12.

Marco Clark, a student in aerospace engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, called the experience an "incredible" opportunity that the country offered to the city

The conference room at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where nearly 300 students, scientists and teachers attended the seminar, heard multiple bursts of applause from the excited audience – such as when Nie showed how to ride a bicycle with his hands and performed tai chi in the Tianhe core module, and when Liu demonstrated how to drink tea from a plastic bag in zero gravity.

Before the space video call, a live question-and-answer session with aerospace experts in Beijing via another video call was arranged. Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut to enter outer space, was among the sharers.

ALSO READ: Q&A: Shenzhou-12 taikonauts talk with HK students

Marco Clark, a student in aerospace engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, called the experience an "incredible" opportunity that the country offered to the city.

Clark was also an emcee at the Hong Kong venue of the live call. He said it is also an incredible moment for young students who have a passion for the subject to capture this opportunity and work to become the next generation of taikonauts or aerospace scientists.

Hong Kong has tremendous potential in promoting the development of related fields with its strong fundamental science and outstanding scientists, Clark said, who said he is looking forward to his future involvement in this field and to providing some insights.

Timothy Wong, a junior of Clark's major at HKUST, said the most "impressive" and "surreal" part of the event was talking with astronauts in the space station in real time, waving to the astronauts, and watching them wave back.

Clockwise from top: Hong Kong students join a video link on Sept 3 with aerospace experts in Beijing. Tan Tieniu, deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, speaks at the event. Astronaut Liu Boming shows students how to make a cup of tea on board China's space station. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the HKSAR, addresses the event. (XINHUA)

The exchange was a "golden opportunity" for young students like him to deepen their understanding of the long-term vision of their profession, something not available from routine studies in the classroom and in the lab, Wong said. Many students in his major will be inspired to commit to the field after the talk, he added.

Tom Mok Kwan-pui, a doctoral student at HKUST, said the astronauts' rising to the challenge during missions encouraged him in his daily work. From now on, he will pay more attention to the design and transformation of his research results into engineering products that may be conducive for national development and the public, Mok said.

A Hong Kong student takes a photo in a cardboard cutout of astronaut Liu Boming at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where taikonauts on board China's Tiangong space station have a real-time video dialogue with Hong Kong students on Sept 3, 2021. (CHEN ZIMO/CHINA DAILY)

Zhang Hongsheng, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong, was excited to learn that a new space telescope will be installed on China's space station. With a much wider view than the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the planned new telescope will provide more data for satellite remote sensing researchers.

In the lobby outside the conference room, dozens of teenagers lined up to have their pictures taken with a cardboard cutout of the three taikonauts.

IN PHOTOS: Chinese astronauts talk with Hong Kong youths from space

Among them was Leo Yeung, an 11-year-old student at an international school. He said his classmates envied him because of his opportunity to talk to the astronauts. If offered the chance, Yeung said, he would tell them that "you are true heroes of mine".

Clark said the event made everyone in Hong Kong proud to be Chinese, given the incredible achievements the country has made over the last decade in aerospace.

"People in most other countries do not have the opportunity to achieve the dream of working in space," he said.