Reach for the stars, China’s second female astronaut Wang Yaping tells Hongkongers

She says future missions will recruit beyond country’s military and consider researchers and scientists

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 8:17am

China’s second female astronaut says she hopes to land on the moon in future missions, and jokes about “flying in space in the traditional costume of Chang’e”, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

On Tuesday, Wang Yaping, speaking to a full house at the InnoTech Expo at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, said her dream was to return to space and explore further into unchartered territory.

In June 2013, Wang travelled on the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft with two male colleagues, Nie Haisheng and Zhang Xiaoguang, on a 15-day mission orbiting Earth. The crew docked with Tiangong-1, China’s first prototype space station.

“Hong Kong people will definitely have opportunities to join the nation’s space missions in the future,” the 37-year-old said.

“The country currently has two batches of astronauts. All are military pilots from the air force. But we’re now recruiting the third batch … and we also select from scientists and researchers.”

She added that the nation’s astronauts will come from more diverse backgrounds in the future and that Hong Kong students were fortunate to have played a part in Shenzhou 11, last year’s mission.

“The crew carried out three experiments designed by Hong Kong students … one of which involved raising silkworms in space,” Wang said.

Chinese astronauts urge Hong Kong pupils to discover universe as ‘proud Chinese’

“It was the first time we’ve brought any living thing other than humans into space.”

Asked about the differences between male and female astronauts, Wang said their training was almost the same as they experienced the same physical challenges such as muscle contractions in space.

But she added that having women could “complete” the legacy of the country’s space programme.

In the talk, Wang recalled looking at Earth from space and not being able to see the Great Wall, refuting an urban myth that the Chinese landmark was visible from space.

She added that what struck her the most in space was how small our planet looked against the universe, and urged people to have respect for Mother Nature.

The first Chinese woman in space was Liu Yang, on the Shenzhou 9 mission in 2012. Wang was a member of that backup crew.