Taikonauts keep Lantern Festival traditions alive on space station

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Taikonauts keep Lantern Festival traditions alive on space station
Screen image captured at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 16, 2021 shows three Chinese astronauts, Zhai Zhigang (C), Wang Yaping (R) and Ye Guangfu, waving after entering the space station core module Tianhe. (Xinhua/Tian Dingyu)

Wang Yaping, a taikonaut onboard China's space station core module, offered people on Earth a zero-gravity musical performance on Tuesday evening to celebrate the Lantern Festival.

The space show was shared via a video released at an annual TV gala for the festival celebration. In the video, Wang was seen floating in the space module while playing a guzheng, or Chinese zither.

She played a segment of the popular Chinese folk song "Jasmine Flower."

The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar. People usually hang colorful lanterns, play riddle games and express their wishes and hopes for the future.

The crew members, who traveled to the space station core module on the Shenzhou-13 mission, kept some festive traditions alive as they continued to orbit the Earth.

Commander Zhai Zhigang wrote riddles on red paper scrolls with a brush pen. He displayed the calligraphy together with taikonaut Ye Guangfu and extended festival greetings to the audience.

They also sent blessings to athletes at the ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics: "We wish that you all achieve success, gain friendship and harvest your best Olympic experience."

The video of the space performance was received with much enthusiasm after it was shared on social media platforms. It drew nearly 2 million hits in one hour after several national media outlets posted it on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.

The Weibo account of Zhurong, China's first rover on Mars, reposted the video, commenting, "(The music) was so beautiful, and it made me homesick, too."

The Lantern Festival also marks the last day of the lunar New Year celebration. Though far from home, the festive sentiments in space are the same.

The China Manned Space Agency released a video on social media platforms on Tuesday, showing that the taikonauts had decorated the orbiting core module with red lanterns, Chinese knots and paper-cutting decorations.

Donning new clothes, the trio enjoyed the traditions of eating dumplings and pasting spring couplets on walls.

During the Chinese New Year holiday, they were also spotted watching the Winter Olympics and doing workouts in orbit.

On Oct. 16, 2021, the Shenzhou-13 mission sent the three taikonauts to the space station for a six-month stay — the longest-ever duration in the country's manned space program.

They have completed multiple tasks over the past few months, including performing spacewalks, a live science lecture, and a manual rendezvous and docking test with the Tianzhou-2 cargo vessel.

China plans to complete the building of its space station in 2022.

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