The Shenzhou-13 crew will enter the Chinese space station and stay there for six months, after a three-month mission from the Shenzhou-12 crew.
The long-term stay of Chinese astronauts in the space station and frequent interactions with the public have inspired broad support and vision for space exploration in the country.
More details on space life
The space station began the construction phase after the Tianhe Core Module was put into orbit on April 29, 2021. The new designs and technologies of the space station make the life of astronauts more convenient and colorful.
The station offers astronauts more than 100 cubic meters of space to live and work, more than six times that of the Tiangong-2 space laboratory. The Tianhe Core Module provides astronauts with six areas for work, sleep, hygiene, meals, health care and exercise, respectively.
The high bandwidth can support the transmission of large amounts of data to the ground, allowing the public to closely follow the life and work of Chinese astronauts for the first time.
In late September, the Chinese Manned Space Agency (CMSA) released more than 20 video clips to the public through its social media accounts, recording the life and work of astronauts in orbit. It includes extravehicular activities (EVA), physical exercises, health check-ups and observation of the Tokyo Olympics in August.
In an interview with Chinese media, the three astronauts told the audience that they had several entertainment activities in their free time, such as listening to music, playing shadow boxing, or jogging in space on a treadmill. .
In front of the camera, they even demonstrated how to play ping pong in space using a racket to hit the ball back and forth. The ball is attached to the end of an elastic stick.
In addition to the videos of the astronauts, the Chinese space industry has provided more related materials to the public. The Chinese Academy of Space Technologies (CAST), in charge of the development of the Chinese space station, has released a series of videos about the space station itself. It shows the technical innovations of the station, such as a mechanical arm and cabin fittings.
Chinese space authorities are making as much effort on the ground as they are in space. During the last school year in September 2021, they organized space popularization activities in colleges, universities and museums to inspire future generations.
China’s first space traveler, Yang Liwei, also deputy chief designer of the Chinese manned space program, visited Beijing’s No.5 Middle School on September 1 and delivered a speech at the school’s opening ceremony. He encouraged them to participate in the country’s space exploration and felt that they could “fly higher and further”.
Yang had written an article titled “A Day in Space” to recall his space adventure. It is included in the Chinese textbook for middle school students across the country.
On September 3, the three crew members of the Shenzhou-12 had a live chat with about 300 representatives of university and college students, teachers and science and technology researchers from Hong Kong SAR.
Nie Haisheng, the crew chief, showed the audience how to exercise the arms by holding their head down and using the paddle of a space bike.
When asked if they could see Hong Kong during the EVAs, astronaut Liu Boming said he could see the flashing lights of Victoria Harbor and the night view of Hong Kong.
On September 6, they also sent a congratulatory video clip to students who attended the opening ceremony of the Chinese Space Station Science and Innovative Experiment Base at the China Science and Technology Museum. They invited them to come up with ideas and projects for the station, such as designing a future space station, studying the shape of space potatoes, or turning hometown delicacies into space food.
Public attention, support
The frequent exposure of Chinese astronauts to the space station has increasingly attracted the attention of the general public, who are interested in their work and life in space. They have gained public recognition and support.
On China’s social media platforms, like Weibo and Bilibili, photos and videos of the space life of Chinese astronauts are popular, such as Nie Haisheng playing shadow boxing, Liu Boming writing Chinese calligraphy, and Tang Hongbo taking photos. of the moon with his cell phone from the cabin window.
The audience is discovering that these brave space heroes are fascinating people in their work and in their daily lives.
On Bilibili, a video clip of Tang Hongbo eating an apple while working has been aired over 860,000 times with over 1,800 comments. A comment with almost 8,900 likes says: “This is a small bite for man, a giant bite for mankind”.
Another video showing Tang spinning a pen at Shenzhou-12 has been viewed nearly 1.6 million times. From these details, the public sees that an astronaut is just as curious as ordinary people about the phenomenon of weightlessness in space.
In addition to reading, watching and sharing, some people themselves have started to showcase China’s efforts in space exploration.
The Planetary Research Institute, an account both active on Weibo and Bilibili, released a nine-minute video that tells the story of the development of the Chinese space station. It has been played over 1.3 million times.
“After all, the earth is only the cradle of human beings. We cannot stay in the cradle forever – the stars are our destination,” a comment said after the video.