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Astronauts, experts praise contributions of SARs to nation's space programs

China Daily | November 29, 2023


A high-level delegation, comprising astronauts and experts from the China Manned Space Agency, lauded the participation of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions in the development of the nation's space programs, and expressed the hope that the SARs will further leverage their strengths to make greater contributions.

The delegation, led by Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the space agency, arrived in Hong Kong on Tuesday on a four-day visit and made the remarks at a news conference.

Lin said that President Xi Jinping and the central government have always attached importance to and have been supportive of the scientific and technological development endeavors of Hong Kong and Macao.

Astronauts who helped in the construction of the Tiangong space station, including Liu Boming from the Shenzhou XII manned mission, Wang Yaping from Shenzhou XIII, Chen Dong from Shenzhou XIV and Zhang Lu from Shenzhou XV, and experts from related fields of manned space engineering are part of the visiting delegation.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu hosted a welcoming banquet for the delegates after the media briefing, and said that over the past 30 years, the nation's manned space program has achieved a lot of breakthroughs, making Chinese people everywhere very proud.

Lee said he hopes that Hong Kong's young people will seize the opportunity of the delegation's visit to learn more about the nation's manned space program, and gain inspiration from the perseverance, skills and abilities of astronauts and other experts.

On a separate occasion on Tuesday morning, Lee expressed his gratitude to the central government for arranging the visit, saying it fully demonstrated the central government's support for the SAR and the attention given to Hong Kong's young people, as well as the nation's high regard for and recognition of the city's development in science and technology.

Photographs showing the Tiangong space station in its entirety, taken by the crew of the Shenzhou XVI mission using a handheld high-definition camera during a flyby before their return to Earth, made their debut at the media briefing in Hong Kong.

This is the first time China has obtained, while in orbit, images of its space station with Earth visible in the backdrop. These photographs also represent the first set of images to display the complete configuration of the space station while in operation.

During the news conference, Lin, from the space agency, said it is evident that the SARs have had a wider, deeper participation in and have made a bigger contribution to space development over the years.

Lin cited the three experiments designed by Hong Kong's secondary school students, which were carried out during the Shenzhou XI mission. Experts from Hong Kong and Macao played an active part in the selection of the country's fourth batch of payload specialists and the development of the manned lunar rover, he said.

Some candidates from Hong Kong and Macao have entered the final stage of selection for payload specialists, Lin said, expressing the hope to see astronauts from the SARs at the Tiangong space station soon.

Chen, from the Shenzhou XIV mission, said that curiosity, the spirit of exploration and the love for Hong Kong and the nation exhibited by the people, including a student who wrote a letter to the Shenzhou XIV crew members, prompted him to come to the city and share stories about China's manned missions.

Chen, who had replied to the letter from a Hong Kong middle school student, said that Tiangong is "the home of Chinese people in space" and is open to experts from Hong Kong and Macao.

Students from Hong Kong and Macao also left an indelible impression on Wang Yaping, the nation's first female astronaut to conduct a spacewalk and one of the three Shenzhou XIII crew members who beamed a science lesson from Tiangong for students across the nation in 2021.

Wang said she was deeply impressed by a Hong Kong student who asked her if water could be recycled in space.

The astronaut said she felt fortunate to be able to build passion for aerospace endeavors in young minds, and added that she is looking forward to having students from Hong Kong and Macao join the country's aerospace team soon.