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Rule change means Hongkongers could become astronauts

FIT YOUNG HONG KONG people have been cleared to become astronauts. Mainland China has quietly moved away from its policy of using only military personnel on space missions, it was revealed.

The change became apparent after Legislative Councillor Edward Leung asked the Hong Kong government to broker a deal to relax the restriction. Because of the “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong young people cannot join the mainland army, and so apparently could not join the space program.

Leung asked the government whether they could conduct a “discussion with the Mainland authorities on allowing Hong Kong youths who meet the requirements to join the army, so that they may advance towards their space aspiration?”

But the restriction seems to have already been lifted, said Erick Tsang Kwok Wai, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland affairs. The recent intake are not all military.

“Although the country’s astronauts who have participated or are participating in the manned space programme are all from the background of air force pilots, we understand that, besides air force pilots, some of the 18 astronauts of the third batch selected in 2020 are professionals of other streams such as scientists and engineers of research institutes, specialists of research units, etc,” he said. “They are undergoing relevant training.”

If non-military people can become astronauts, that opens up opportunities for Hongkongers.

Tsang added that Hong Kong youngsters were studying science from an early age: “The government has been continuously promoting STEM education at schools so as to enhance students’ interest in science and technology. While the science subject curriculum of junior secondary education covers basic scientific knowledge of space navigation, the physics subject curriculum of senior secondary education has an elective unit on “Astronomy and Aerospace Science”.

Tsang said that Hong Kong had already contributed to the aerospace industry, creating tools that had been used in space, including the development of a tool used on the moon, and a camera used on Mars.

“The Hong Kong Space Museum has organised the Young Astronaut Training Camp since 2009 to select 30 local secondary school students during summer holiday each time to undergo astronaut training programme in Beijing, Jiuquan, etc, which included undergoing simulated astronaut training, meeting with aerospace specialists and astronauts, etc, in order to understand the achievements of aerospace technology of the country,” Tsang said.

Image at the top shows a Chinese rocket. Source: China News Service/ Wikimedia Commons

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