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Millions of Chinese students will watch astronaut Wang Yaping’s science class broadcast from outer space. (Liu Huaiyu / Eyepress / Newscom)

Lessons From Space

Chinese astronauts will teach a class on physics from a space station high above Earth

By Tyrus Cukavac | June 19 , 2013
<p>This is the longest space mission ever for Chinese astronauts. (AP Images)</p>

This is the longest space mission ever for Chinese astronauts. (AP Images)

Many teachers have to walk only as far as their chalkboard to teach their class. But Wang Yaping will be presenting her lesson from outer space! Wang, the second female Chinese astronaut, will give a lecture on physics to Chinese students from Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station.

Wang’s lesson will be about the zero-gravity environment of outer space. She will demonstrate scientific concepts like weight and mass, and teach basic principles of physics. She and two other astronauts may also answer questions they have received from China’s Tencent Weibo, a social networking site similar to Twitter.

The lecture will be broadcast on China Central Television this Thursday, June 20, at 10 a.m. China Standard Time. The time difference between China and the United States means this class begins for American students around 10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time tonight, June 19.

Officials in China are setting up a special classroom in which 330 elementary school and high school students can videoconference with the astronauts while the lecture is being broadcast.

CHINA BLASTS OFF

Wang and two other astronauts were launched into space on June 11 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gansu province. Their mission, called Shenzhou 10, will last 15 days. It is the longest that Chinese astronauts will have spent in space.

The astronauts will perform tests on their body functions, including heart rate and chemical levels. They want to study how living in space could affect a person’s health. They will also practice important docking procedures with their spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 space station module.

Tiangong-1 has been in orbit since 2011. It is a prototype, or test model, of a much larger space station that Chinese officials want to build. Shenzhou 10 will be the last mission to Tiangong-1. After this mission, the structure will act as a “space warehouse” during construction of the larger station. China hopes to complete this new station within the next 10 years.

FROM ONE ASTRONAUT TO ANOTHER

An American astronaut recently offered her support to Wang, a first-time space traveler, and the rest of her crew. Barbara Morgan is a schoolteacher who became a NASA astronaut and taught a class from the International Space Station in 2007.

In a letter she wrote to Wang, Morgan had this to say: “On behalf of teachers and students around the world, I send you greetings of honor and love…You will be very busy up there, but please remember to take time to look out the window.”

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