Tibetan girl's space dream shattered by interference

2008-04-05 21:46:30 Xinhua English

Special report:

SHANGHAI, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Tibetan junior high school student Zhoima Yangzom narrowly missed the chance to talk live with an American astronaut in space this week, because of a sudden radio signal failure.

But she said she wouldn't be downhearted: she still thinks her space luck will stand by her as she comes from the world's highest plateau, the nearest point on earth to space.

She was among 24 elite students selected from middle schools in Shanghai Municipality, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces to take their turns to talk live with Garret Reisman, an American astronaut at the International Space Station (ISS).

"I had prepared my question in English. I wanted to ask Mr. Reisman what would the flame be like when things are burnt in a space capsule," said the red-faced 16-year-old girl.

The live connection with space via amateur radio suddenly died when the ninth student got his turn. Zhoima Yangzom was the 12th in the queue. Tears welled up in her eyes.

Zhoima is in her third year in Gongkang Middle School in Shanghai, where there are 580 Tibetan ethnic students coming from seven counties in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

The native of Lhasa, the regional capital, came to study alone in Shanghai two years ago. Both her parents work in Lhasa for international organizations.

She was appraised as an able student by Sun Jiwei, teacher in charge of her class.

"Zhoima is fluent in both Chinese and English, and is popular among students. That was what distinguished her from her competition for the chance to talk with the astronaut in space," said the teacher.

The girl is also talented in arts. Her paintings of Tibetan houses and landscape have aroused interests from students in her plateau hometown.

The girl said that her hard work is driven by her strong desire to study abroad and return to her hometown, to which she intends to devote her knowledge and wisdom.

"I made a long-distance call to my mum in Lhasa to tell her how much I was admired by my schoolmates for the chance to talk with an astronaut in space. She asked me to do my best," said Zhoima.

However the dialogue between the students with Reisman at ISS only lasted for about six minutes. Nine students got the chance, but contact was lost because of high humidity in the air and strong interference from wireless signals in the city, where skyscrapers block signals.

Chinese students made the first live talk with astronauts at ISS in August last year. Through this activity, the enthusiasm has been candled among students studying astronautical technology and radio communication.

Students asked such questions as -- would people born in space be taller than us on earth? What would astronauts do if they lost all communication with earth disconnect? Have astronauts grown any plants in space? How do astronauts dispose of rubbish at ISS?