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Hong Kong students design experiments for Tiangong-2

Reporter: Mao Dan 丨 CCTV.com

11-05-2016 04:07 BJT

Full coverage: China Tiangong-2 Space Lab Launch

Astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong are conducting a series of scientific experiments during their month long stay in space. But some of these experiments are extra special. Three of them have been designed by secondary school students in Hong Kong SAR.

To make a porous membrane at a school lab, you’ll need to prepare a set of vessels and devices, follow a multiple-step procedure and carefully mix the solution -- a collaborative effort for a small team.

But if you want to conduct the experiment in outer space at zero gravity, a major prerequisite is to minimize the complexity of the experiment and simplify the procedure.

Students at Shun Tak Fraternal Association Yung Yau College, a secondary school in Hong Kong, explained how they designed a space experiment for the Tiangong-2 space lab.

“We have simplified the experiment so it’s quite easy to carry out in space. The solutions can be prepared on Earth and put in two plastic bags. The astronauts just need to make a salt-water-film with one metal ring and a PVA-film with another ring, and then carefully pull the two together to try to create a porous polymer membrane,” said Chan Chui-Shan, Porous Membrane Space Experiment designer.

How do they know of the water-film?

"We have watched the space lesson by Wang Yaping and thus know that in space a water film can be created with a metal ring because of increased water tension. So we hypothesized the same method in our experimental design," Chan said.

China began to link its space exploration program directly to basic scientific education three years ago. Astronauts gave a lesson to millions of schoolchildren from the Tiangong-1 and demonstrated various phenomena in zero gravity. Today, as the country moves forward with Tiangong-2, students are encouraged to come up with their own ideas for experiments in space.

A Space Science Experiment Design Competition was held for Hong Kong Secondary School Students by the mainland's manned space agency together with the Productivity Council of Hong Kong last year.

The top three winners, namely the experiment of a porous membrane, silkworm breeding and the study of double pendulums, were carried to space by the Shenzhou-11, and are being conducted in the Tiangong-2 space lab.

The students were invited to witness the lift-off of the Shenzhou-11 at Jiuquan launch center.

“I still remember the moment we heard the countdown and saw a light in the distance. It meant we could really see the rocket launch with our own eyes. Watching it slowly ascend and the dust flying in the wake of its launch was so exiting,” said Au Kwan-Yiu, designer.

“To see the spacecraft in person was so amazing. I had never imagined the rocket would be so gigantic being able to be part of such a giant and high-end project is the most precious experience for me,” said designer Ho Yik-Lung.

Besides the excitement from the trip, the students are continuing with their passion for space science, and they are paying close attention to the astronauts on board the Tiangong-2.

“We don’t know how the experiment will go in space. We are waiting to see the results when the astronauts return to earth,” Chan said.

And, this curiosity toward the unknown arises each time they look into space.

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