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Astronaut sends greetings to taikonaut

China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-17 11:02

As China's first space teacher Wang Yaping orbited the earth, Barbara Morgan, the world's first astronaut to ever teach in space, was signing her name on a letter to cheer on the Chinese newcomer.

"I wish you could see the smile on my face, I am just really, really happy," Morgan said when she was asked to comment on the launch of China's Shenzhou-10 spacecraft.

To Morgan, distance cannot separate Americans and Chinese, and teaching seems to have no boundaries. "All over the world, we are really very exited," Morgan said.

"I have written a letter that I hope the Chinese news media will share with astronaut Ya-ping and all the people of China," Morgan wrote in an e-mail to Xinhua. "I share your sense of pride and joy!"

In her letter to Wang, Morgan wrote: "You will be very busy up there, but please remember to take time to look out the window. China and all of this world are beautiful."

Wang, the female member among three "taikonauts," will broadcast a lecture on physics from the space laboratory to students throughout China.

Looking forward to watching Wang's lessons from space, Morgan laughed and said: "The students and teachers are eagerly waiting and I am too."

"Education is so important and space exploration is so important and I hope these are all going to be broadcast on the Internet, so that all of those on the ground in the world can watch," she said. "I am delighted about astronaut Wang Ya-ping and her crewmates in the Shenzhou-10 mission and I'm especially excited about Wang's upcoming - and China's very first - lessons taught from space."

Morgan, born in 1951, conducted her first teaching lesson in space in 2007 from the International Space Station. Via a video feed, she showed students how to exercise and drink water in space.

Twenty-one years before Morgan's success, US astronaut Christa McAuliffe was selected as the first teacher in space but never completed the mission, as the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after launch on Jan 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members.

Morgan did not give up McAuliffe's dream of going into space. For more than a decade, she continued to press NASA for the chance to fly. In 1998, NASA eventually accepted Morgan as the first educator astronaut.

"It's always more challenging when you don't have your students in the same room with you, but luckily we have wonderful technology," Morgan said. "I know she [Wang] is going to do a wonderful, wonderful job."

Just like Morgan, many US scientists and experts expressed congratulations on the successful launch of China's fifth manned space mission. They hope the Shenzhou-10 mission will lead to more cooperation and collaboration in space between the US and China.

"Scientific collaboration is an excellent way to bridge understanding and develop friendships," Michael Rich, a research astronomer at UCLA, told Xinhua.

China is the third country after the United States and Russia to acquire the technologies and skills necessary for space rendezvous and docking procedures and to supply manpower and materials for an orbiting module via different docking methods.

"It is very difficult, and very expensive, to explore space. If the nations of the world can work together, we could work on larger missions than any of us could do by ourselves," said Professor Timothy Swindle, director of the Department of Planetary Sciences and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the University of Arizona.


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