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Astronauts inspire children during HK visit

Updated: 2012-08-12 08:59
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong ( China Daily)

The three Chinese astronauts who are on a goodwill mission to Hong Kong met 1,400 students and encouraged them not to give up their dreams despite the challenges they have to encounter.

The astronauts, who completed the first space docking and rendezvous mission on Tiangong-1/Shenzhou IX recently, was on their second day tour of Hong Kong on Saturday.

They shared the difficulties they and their families went through to achieve their space mission.

Jing Haipeng, who was chosen as part of the nation's first team of astronauts in 1996, said to pursue his aspiration, he missed most of the parent gatherings during his child's schooling years.

"From kindergarten, primary school up till the first three years at secondary school, I've never attended a single parent gathering with my kid," Jing said. "Astronaut training is intensive. I've missed every opportunity (to share the life of my child)."

He told the gathering that he has not "fulfilled his duties as a son, husband and father" because to ensure the successful completion of his space mission required complete dedication.

Astronauts inspire children during HK visit

Chinese astronauts Liu Yang, Liu Wang and Jing Haipeng (L-R) sing the song Heirs of the Dragon with a children's choir during a variety show to welcome the delegation of Tiangong-1/Shenzhou IX Manned Space Docking and Rendezvous Mission in Hong Kong on Aug 11, 2012. [Photo by Edmond Tang / China Daily]

China's first woman astronaut Liu Yang said she did not have extraordinary aspirations as a child. She thought about becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or even a bus conductor. There was no space program then.

She spoke of her gratitude at being chosen as the nation's first woman astronaut, but she disclosed that when she first joined the team, she was poorly coordinated, unable to maintain balance and her inner equilibrium did not meet the requirements of becoming an astronaut.

She said to improve, she did spinning exercises after her daily routine, adding five spins every day. "I persevered every day and eventually, my performance was graded with the highest marks," she said.

Crewmate Liu Wang encouraged students to respect their own interests and set goals to meet their aspirations.

"A boy held my hand yesterday, urging me to take him to space," Liu said. "I hope, in the near future, we will have some Hong Kong crewmates in our team so that I can learn proper Cantonese."

One of the students who met the astronauts, Emilie Chu Po-ching, 15, said that although she has not found the dream she wants to pursue, the astronauts' words gave her encouragement.

She said the lesson she took away from the two-hour seminar was to "believe in ourselves and be determined". "We must be willing to sacrifice for our aspirations."

The students were full of curiosity about the astronauts' experiences. For example, how did the astronauts take a bath in space? They were also curious if the mission spotted any UFOs. The answer was no.

Ellen Fung Nga-lun, who will be in secondary five in September, expressed her pride in the nation's aerospace achievements. "I've learned from the talk about some of the hurdles and challenges the astronauts had to overcome to fulfill the mission. That made me even more proud of them," she added.

Astronauts inspire children during HK visit

Eddie Ng Hak-kim, second left, Secretary for Education of Hong Kong Education Bureau, exchanges gifts with Chinese astronauts Liu Yang, third left, Jing Haipeng, and Liu Wang, second right, during a ceremony to welcome the delegation of Tiangong-1/Shenzhou IX Manned Space Docking and Rendezvous Mission in Hong Kong on Aug 11, 2012.[Photo/China News Service]

The delegation also met with the heads of the city's universities and local scholars. Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the manned space program, called on Hong Kong to play a bigger role in future space missions.

"As tertiary institutes enroll more outstanding students from the mainland, we hope they can also increase and deepen their engagement in the development and construction of the manned space mission," he said.

Professor Yung Kai-leung, of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, who will build soil sampling tools for China's Moon program, told Xinhua News Agency that he believed that Hong Kong scientists are well positioned with their global vision and sound academic foundation. Hong Kong Polytechnic University is a leader in the city's aerospace engineering.

Earlier in the day, the three astronauts accepted an award of HK$6.25million ($805,000) from the Tsang Hin-chi Manned Space Foundation at a special ceremony.

They also took part in a variety show in front of some 2,000 live audiences.

The space heroes shared the stage with a children's choir performing the song Heirs of the Dragon. Liu Yang showed off her talent as she joined a local girl in a recital of Song of Yangtze River.

At the end of the show, the trio, accompanied by officials and artistes, bid farewell to the audience, singing Pearl of the Orient.

The astronauts will meet more members of the public on Sunday - they will launch an exhibition at the city's science museum and meet university students. The delegation will leave Hong Kong on Monday.