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China's first teacher in space

Updated: 2013-06-10 21:24


China's first teacher in space

Wang Yaping [Photo by Zou Hong/Asianewsphoto]


JIUQUAN - Thirty-three-year-old spacewoman Wang Yaping will make history -- she will be China's first teacher in space.

Wang will teach Chinese primary and middle school students on Earth physics phenomena in a zero-gravity environment. She is preparing for the lecture and expressed full confidence about the upcoming lesson.

Meeting the media Monday, she said, "We are all students in facing the vast universe. We are looking forward to joining our young friends to learn and explore the mystical and beautiful universe."

Wang, born in January 1980, is from east China's Shandong Province, the hometown of China's most famous educationist Confucius (551-479 BC). She was a transport aircraft pilot in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force with experience of 1,600 hours of flying.

The world's first teacher in space was Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year-old middle school teacher from the United States, but the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated after 73 seconds into flight on January 28, 1986. McAuliffe and other six crew members were killed.

Barbara Morgan, McAuliffe's backup in that mission who became an astronaut later, completed the teaching lesson in space in 2007, when she was sent into the International Space Station with Space Shuttle Endeavor. Via a video feed, she showed students how to exercise and drink water in space.

Except the space lecture, Wang will be responsible for monitoring the conditions of spacecraft, space experiments and operation of equipment, among others.

Wang was recruited to the People's Liberation Army in August 1997 and became a member of the Communist Party of China in May 2000. Currently, she is a major.

In May 2010, Wang became a member of the second batch of Chinese astronauts and was selected to the crew of the Shenzhou-10 space mission in April 2013. She will be China's second female astronaut being sent into space after Liu Yang who was aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft.

Wang's space dream traced back to a decade ago when China's first astronaut Yang Liwei successfully fulfilled his space mission.

At the time, 23-year-old Wang had been enrolled in China's Air Force for two years and was an aircraft pilot. Watching the live TV broadcast of Yang's successful mission, a question came to Wang: since China had a male astronaut, when would the first female astronaut emerge?

Wang's lecture in orbit will be a pleasant surprise, said Zhang Xiaoguang, a male astronaut in the three-member crew of Shenzhou-10 spacecraft.

"She's eager to excel in whatever she does. Sometimes we'd like to give her a helping hand, but she just would not take a hand in help," said Nie Haisheng, commander astronaut in the mission.

"They take care of me as their own younger sister in life, but I wish to be their comrade-in-arms," said Wang. "I'd like to demonstrate that my generation is willing to embrace challenges."

Life is not a plain sailing for the young woman. She missed out on being selected as China's first female astronaut to be sent into space in the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft, launched in 2012.

However, Wang devoted herself to training soon after the selection. She was so tough at the time and always remains with a peaceful mind, said Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system.

Wang, from a farmer's family in Shandong, has a sister who is seven years younger than her. The experience of doing farm work since an early age has made her strong, and the habit of long-distance running tempered her will.

With a dream of going to college, she insisted on receiving a high school education after graduation from middle school, despite her parents' wish that she could be admitted to a technical secondary school.

Graduating from high school, the young lady, so fascinated by the honor of being a pilot, stood out from fierce competition and managed to be enrolled by an air force college.

The experience of parachute jumping for the first time remains fresh in Wang's mind.

She said the first jump was done among excitement and curiosity, but fears preoccupied her when she started the second jump.

"We girls all cried while singing an inspiring song 'A Hero Never Dies' on our way back after the training," she said.

Wang, with nine years of experience as a transport aircraft pilot and 1,600 hours of flying, fulfilled the missions of conducting disaster relief for the Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008, dispelling cloud and reducing rain for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, and combating drought in Shandong.

Wang was recruited to China's second batch of astronauts after strict selection in May 2010.

The most arduous task for her was the training under a hypergravity environment. She was very anxious about the intense training which exceeded her body extremes at the very beginning.

By asking for advice from other veteran astronauts and intensifying training, Wang easily reached the criteria the next year.

Like many young Chinese people, Wang likes photography, music and basketball. Beyond many people's imagination, she is an excellent forward on the basketball court.

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