Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield won the hearts of YouTube addicts the world over with his antics in zero gravity. Sadly, Hadfield has moved out of the International Space Station and back to Canada (although not without a farewell song), so who better for the role of zero-gravity superstar than Major Wang Yaping of China?
The 33-year-old astronaut and her two colleagues are on a short voyage on the Shenzhou 10 to the Tiangong 1 space lab, where she delivered a long lecture on Thursday aimed at 60 million Chinese schoolchildren. Like Hadfield, Wang used social media to connect with her younger audience, accepting questions via the Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo. Her approach was more serious than Hadfield’s, although the cross-legged zero-gravity aerobatics were entertaining. (And yes, David Bowie fans, she holds the rank of major according to Xinhua.)
The lecture got a positive if not ecstatic welcome from earthbound viewers. One Weibo user called Wang’s experiments with water “of great importance to mankind’s exploration of outer space.” That might be going a bit far, but for the most part people enjoyed the show. There were the inevitable grumblers, though—when the mission was launched last week, one micro-blogger wrote: “Why don’t they spend this money solving China’s real problems instead of wasting it like this?”—so it looks like Major Wang has a ways to go before she makes the grade.