Taikonauts' HK visit ignites local 'space frenzy'
Published: Nov 29, 2023 10:43 PM
A delegation of China's manned space engineering pose for a group photo at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The delegation will pay a six-day visit to Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions from November 28 through December 3, 2023. Photo: VCG

A delegation of China's manned space engineering pose for a group photo at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The delegation will pay a six-day visit to Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions from November 28 through December 3, 2023. Photo: VCG

The ongoing visit by taikonauts and Chinese experts to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has sparked a wave of enthusiasm for pursuing aerospace advancement and a growing sense of national pride among young locals. 

On Wednesday, the delegation continued their visit by heading to a number of schools to talk with students. The delegation from China's manned space program, which will stay in Hong Kong for four days before heading to Macao, arrived at several primary and middle schools on Wednesday, during which time they exchanged views with some 1,400 students and teachers from more than 40 schools. 

Leung Suk-yu, executive director of Hong Kong Family Mediation Association, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the delegation was met with warm welcome from the public, with many local residents and students already lining up on the side of the streets when they arrived. 

She learned from students who attended Wednesday's events that they are very eager to learn about the taikonauts' life in space, such as how they sleep and drink in zero-gravity. Upon learning about the taikonauts' experiences, the students became more interested in becoming taikonauts themselves one day and riding rockets to explore other planets. 

Chan Man-lam, a Hong Kong secondary school student, finally met with her "pen pal" Chen Dong, the Shenzhou-14 mission commander, on Wednesday. Chan was invited on stage to share an inspiring reply letter from Chen Dong. 

"I was deeply moved when he said he still remembers me," the student said.  

Another taikonaut, Wang Yaping, the first woman to ever enter the country's space station, is also a member of the delegation. She is known for the touching story of the time she promised her kid that she would "pick up shining stars and take them back to my baby."

Netizens said that it was very surprising to see the "star-picking mom" in Hong Kong, and she was gentle, powerful and warm just as on TV. 

"Seeing the taikonauts face-to-face was more mind-blowing than seeing them on screen. By looking at them, I can easily imagine the resilience and bravery they had when they were faced with all kinds of uncertainties and unknowns in space," said a netizen on Sina Weibo. 

While there, Wang expressed the hope to see compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao join the taikonaut team as soon as possible. 

Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, revealed on Tuesday that the selection for the fourth batch of reserve taikonauts completed its second round in August. Aiming to select 12 to 14 for this batch, a total of 21 candidates have entered the final round, including several from Hong Kong and Macao. 

Leung told the Global Times that Hong Kong has several unique advantages for boosting the country's space program together with the mainland. 

"Firstly, as an international financial center, Hong Kong has a mature financial system and legal framework to better support aerospace initiatives. Secondly, Hong Kong boasts top-notch research institutions, possessing strong innovative capabilities and technological advantages that can contribute to the R&D of aerospace technology. What's more, as an international city, Hong Kong serves as a platform for extensive international exchanges and cooperation, facilitating partnerships with other regions worldwide," Leung said. 

The delegation also attended a performance held at the Hong Kong Coliseum on Wednesday. Some 5,000 tickets for the performance, which were distributed for free at 20 localities across the city, were all claimed within just two hours.

Meanwhile in Macao, the lunar soil samples brought back by China's Chang'e-5 probe made their debut on Tuesday along with a range of exhibits, including models of major space probes and carrier rockets. Set to run from Tuesday to December 9, the exhibition is expected to promote technological innovation in Macao, and foster the development of high-tech industries, as well as inspire the local population, especially youths.

Chen Jimin, Deputy Secretary General of the China Space Foundation and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the delegation's visit, after an interval of 11 years, has sparked a fresh wave of patriotism among local residents, and has inspired more young talents to devote themselves to China's high-tech development. 

"Over the years, various sectors of Macao have actively supported the development of the country's space industry, pouring in their deep hopes and efforts. By participating in this course, Macao has been able to leverage its own advantages, creating a new model of collaboration with the mainland in technological innovation and scientific research, such as the launch of the Macao Science-1 satellite," Chen said.