Chinese Space Station Video Validated by Science, Not a Sign of Deception

by Andrew Wright
Chinese space station footage

CLAIM: A video featuring a stationary glass of water on China’s space station is evidence that the footage wasn’t actually filmed in space.

AP’S EVALUATION: Untrue. Experts affirm that the video aligns with the known behavior of water in zero gravity, providing no grounds to question China’s space activities. Additional footage displays an astronaut filling the glass using a straw-equipped container, and adhesive strips used to secure the glass to a table.

THE DETAILS: A collection of clips taken aboard Tiangong, the Chinese space station, has spurred online skepticism regarding its actual location, primarily due to the glass of water.

Highlights from a 2021 science lecture by the Shenzhou-13 crew of Tiangong and the crew’s earthbound return are integrated into this collection. A graphic circle edited into the video emphasizes the glass of water.

Questions posed in the video text include: “How did they get the water into the glass?” and “Why isn’t it floating out of the glass?”

An Instagram post containing the clip compilation implies that it’s proof the video wasn’t really shot in space: “How could such a grand deception be possible? Wouldn’t other nations confront us?” As of Friday, the post had amassed over 36,500 likes.

However, the footage doesn’t prove any deception. A simple scientific principle explains the behavior of the water, an expert disclosed to The Big Big News.

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“Water molecules prefer clinging to glass and other water molecules over scattering in the air,” Jordan Bimm, a postdoctoral researcher and space historian at the University of Chicago, informed AP. “In the absence of an external force, water stays in ‘clusters’ in a weightless environment, like inside the glass in this case.”

Surface tension — a liquid characteristic that influences its form and resists external forces — “also helps maintain a static shape and creates the impression of how water behaves on earth.”

A different video posted on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, in June 2022 by China’s manned space program shows behind-the-scenes footage of the Shenzhou-13 crew getting ready for their live-streamed lesson. It clearly shows them pouring water into the glass via a straw to ensure it stays put and adhesive strips used to secure the glass to the table.

During the lesson, the astronauts further demonstrated another unique aspect of water behavior in zero-gravity environments by submerging a ping pong ball in the glass. While water buoyancy would make the ball float on Earth, in space it remains submerged.

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Astronauts globally have shared videos explaining how liquids behave in space, such as the process of making coffee or the results of wringing out a wet towel.

Moreover, there is other evidence substantiating that Tiangong is truly in space.

“The chances of the video being a fabrication are slim, as there’s minimal incentive for the Chinese space program to create a fake video,” Molly Silk, a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester who has examined the Chinese space program, said. “The space station’s existence has been confirmed by international parties, including China’s main space rival, the US.”

Silk detailed that China has extended an invitation to United Nations member states to send their astronauts to Tiangong — “an unlikely proposition if China didn’t truly have a space station for astronaut visits.”

This is part of AP’s mission to combat widespread misinformation, collaborating with external companies and organizations to provide factual context to misleading online content. Learn more about AP’s fact-checking efforts.

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Carl45 June 28, 2023 - 10:51 am

and still, ppl are gonna say its all a hoax! sigh… no one trusts anyone anymore

SpacedOutMike June 28, 2023 - 6:27 pm

cool stuff. Didnt know water would stick in a glass in space. Thanks for the info!

Lizzy T June 28, 2023 - 7:20 pm

i just dont get why people are so quick to call everything fake news these days. Looks like this one’s been debunked. Check mate, conspiracy theorists!

MoonGirl23 June 28, 2023 - 8:19 pm

If it’s fake, why would they even show a glass of water? like, duh… they’d just avoid it, right? Anyway, the science explanation makes sense to me.

Mark Jenson June 28, 2023 - 8:52 pm

wow, so water in space behaves like that? mind blown… science is pretty rad!


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