Shenzhou XIII astronaut Wang Yaping waves during a media briefing to introduce the latest developments of China’s manned space program at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on Nov 28, 2023. The media briefing was also attended by Lin Xiqiang (center), deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, and Shenzhou XIV astronaut Chen Dong. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
A high-level delegation from the nation’s manned space program lavished praise on the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions for their participation and contributions to the program, as the delegation kicked off a four-day visit to Hong Kong on Tuesday.
In a news conference in Hong Kong following their arrival in the city, they expressed hopes for the two SARs to leverage their strengths to make greater contributions.
Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency and leader of the delegation, said that President Xi Jinping and the central government have always priortized and supported the scientific and technological developments of Hong Kong and Macao
Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency and leader of the delegation, said that President Xi Jinping and the central government have always priortized and supported the scientific and technological developments of Hong Kong and Macao.
The delegation is composed of astronauts who participated in the construction of the Chinese space station, including Shenzhou XII astronaut Liu Boming, Shenzhou XIII astronaut Wang Yaping, Shenzhou XIV astronaut Chen Dong, Shenzhou XV astronaut Zhang Lu, and experts from related fields of the manned space engineering systems.
Also debuting at the media briefing was a set of photographs of China’s Tiangong space station in its entirety, taken by the crew of the Shenzhou XVI mission with a handheld high-definition camera during a flyby before the crew’s return to Earth.
This is the first time China has obtained, while in orbit, images of the entire space station with Earth in the background. These photographs also represent the first set of images to display the complete configuration of the space station while it is in operation.
At the briefing, Lin said that Hong Kong and Macao youth have proactively participated in many previous manned space missions. For example, three experiments designed by Hong Kong secondary school students were carried out during the Shenzhou XI manned space mission, and specialists from the two SARs played an active part in the selection of the country’s fourth batch of payload experts and the development of the manned lunar rover.
Shenzhou-XIV astronaut Chen Dong (second left) greets attendees during a press conference, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, on Nov 28, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
Some candidates from Hong Kong and Macao have entered the final stage of the selection of payload specialists, Lin said, expressing his hope to see Hong Kong and Macao astronauts at the China Space Station (CSS) as soon as possible, and make greater contribution to the motherland’s space development leveraging the regions’ own strengths.
Lin said it is evident that Hong Kong and Macao have made a wider, deeper participation and bigger contribution in space development over the years.
Chen said that the CSS is national, open and diversified. The station is the home of Chinese people in space, and of course is open to members of Hong Kong and Macao as well.
Chen said that he witnessed breathtaking scenery during his two space missions in 2016 and 2022. He said entering the spacious and comfortable Tiangong space station felt like coming back home, emphasizing that his dream of space exploration would never fade.
During his 2022 mission, Chen replied to a letter from a secondary school student in Hong Kong. He said it was the curiosity, spirit of exploration, and the love for Hong Kong and the nation exhibited by people in the city, like the student, that attracted him to come to the city and share stories about aerospace.
Lin Xiqiang, deputy director-general of the China Manned Space Agency, delivers his speech during a press conference, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, on Nov 28, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
In 2022, a secondary school student named Chen Man-lin from Hong Kong participated in a national campaign called “Bring my Dream to Tiangong”, which involved writing letters to the astronauts in the nation’s Tiangong space station.
In her letter, she detailed every moment of her planned journey and how she gradually got to know what astronauts do and about the nation’s aerospace development program.
Chen Dong responded to the student, making her the only one chosen in Hong Kong to receive a letter sent from space.
Wang — the nation’s first female astronaut to walk in space — said that her motivation comes from her love for her country and the aerospace industry, as well as the trust and expectations of the country’s people.
A high-definition image of the Tiangong space station taken by the crew of Shenzhou XVI on Oct 30 was released on Nov 28, 2023 in Hong Kong. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Wang said that during her first lecture on the Tiangong space station, she was deeply impressed by a question from a Hong Kong student, who asked if water could be recycled in space. She said that she felt fortunate to be able to foster a passion for aerospace endeavors for the young minds, adding she is looking forward to having students from Hong Kong and Macao join the country’s aerospace team soon.
Students from Hong Kong and Macao were among those who received the first science class, in a series of lessons, from the country’s Tiangong space station in 2021. The lesson was delivered by Wang, Zhai Zhigang, and Ye Guangfu — crew members of Shenzhou XIII who joined the space station crew in October 2021.
A welcome banquet was also held for the delegation on Tuesday. The delegation will also attend a variety show at the Hong Kong Coliseum on Wednesday. They will also meet with representatives of Hong Kong’s innovation and technology sector, and teachers and students from primary, secondary, and tertiary schools for exchanges on Thursday.
Atlas Shao and Hu Yuyan contributed to the story.
HONG KONG NEWS