Although the Chinese space program is still playing catch-up with the Russian and USA space achievements to date, it has undoubtedly come a long way in a very short 10 year period, including its first spacewalk, first woman in space, first space station called Tiangong-1, and first space docking procedure.
Chinese ambitions stretch much further than this though, and with a growing economy behind them, they are due to replace Tiangong-1 with a larger, three-module permanent station, Tiangong 2, seven years from now.
Ultimately though, future plans will need the support and interest of future generations of scientists and researchers, and thus, astronauts aboard Tiangong-1 this week have broadcast a lecture designed to popularise the space program among the young Chinese population.
Wang Yaping, China’s second woman in space, has been demonstrating the principles of weightlessness in space, playing with droplets of water and gyroscopes, and swinging a ball around on a tether to show how weightlessness affects objects in motion.
The three Chinese astronauts involved answered live questions from around 330 schoolchildren gathered together at an auditorium in Beijing during the 51-minute lesson, whilst another 60 million children are reported to have been watching the live broadcast from their classrooms.
If they can capture the imaginations and enthusiasm of even a tiny percentage of this vast pool of young minds and talent, then all bodes well for the future progress of the Chinese space program.