Chinese "Teacher in Space" Gives Lecture, Says No UFO Sightings Yet

Chinese "Teacher in Space" Gives Lecture, Says No UFO Sightings Yet

The Chinese media have provided scant news about what their three astronauts are doing aboard the Tiangong-1 space station, but today their official press service, Xinhua, is full of stories about Wang Yaping giving a lecture to 330 primary and middle school students in Beijing. Another 60 million students and teachers reportedly watched on TV.

China has been calling her their first “teacher in space” because of this 40 minute lecture.  The lessons involved a variety of topics such as weightlessness, gyroscopic motion, and pendulum movement.

Xinhua quotes her as telling the students “Through the front windows, we can see the Earth and many other stars, but up till now, we haven’t seen any UFOs.”

The crew was launched on June 11 aboard Shenzhou-10 and entered the small space station two days later.  Along with Maj. Wang are Maj. Gen. Nie Haisheng  and Col. Chang Xiaogang.  This is Nie’s second spaceflight. Many western media sources refer to Chinese astronauts as taikonauts; the Chinese English-language media call them astronauts.

It is a 15-day mission, which would put landing around June 26, but no specific time or date has been announced.  Other than this space lesson and a test of manual docking techniques, China has made only general statements about the crew’s tasks, which seem to involve continuing to determine how astronauts live and work in space.   They also installed a new floor using “innovative techniques” in Tiangong-1, an 8.5 metric ton module that hosted the Shenzhou-9 crew last year.

Wang’s science lecture from space is one of the highlights of the mission.  Wang is not a teacher by training (she is a transport aircraft pilot), as were those who participated in NASA’s Teacher in Space program.   Christa McAuliffe, the first Teacher in Space, perished in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger tragedy.  Her backup, Barbara Morgan, later joined NASA as an “educator astronaut” and flew on STS-118 in 2007. 

The Chinese media published a letter from Morgan to Wang dated June 13 and a reply email from Wang to Morgan today.  Morgan’s letter says she sends “greetings of honor and love” on behalf of teachers and students around the world — “we are proud of you.”   Wang’s reply thanks her and says “We would like to join the efforts, as you have done, to bring science-loving youth around the world closer to their dreams of exploring the universe.”

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