Fact Check: Water Staying In Jar Does NOT Prove The Shenzhou-13 Crew Faked Spaceshot -- Effect Of Surface Tension

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Water Staying In Jar Does NOT Prove The Shenzhou-13 Crew Faked Spaceshot -- Effect Of Surface Tension Cohesive Force

Has the Chinese space program staged an elaborate and obvious hoax? Is an open glass jar with water in it sitting out on a table in plain sight during a mission evidence that they did not really go into space? No, that's not true: Shenzhou-13 was one of a series of manned space missions by China National Space Agency. This mission lasted 181 days from October 2021 to April 2022 and docked with the Tiangong space station.

Water behaves differently in space without the force of Earth's gravity. Water in space holds together due to cohesive forces and the jar is held to the table with hook-and-loop fastener strips. Several days after this short introduction video was broadcast, the Chinese astronauts gave a lecture to students on Earth about water buoyancy in the absence of gravity. In a second video, the demonstration shows a ping pong ball submerged in the water does not float back to the surface. Later, the jar of water turns upside down as it is gently tossed to another astronaut and the water does not spill out.

On December 6, 2021, the channel of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) posted a video on YouTube titled, "Chinese astronauts greet students on Earth before space lecture". Clips of that video with an added hip hop soundtrack song "Made In China" by the Chinese group Higher Brothers was posted on Instagram on June 12, 2023, by @mountaincultivator with the caption:

"How could they get away with such a massive deception? Wouldn't other countries call us out?"

The video also has text captioning added which reads:

How did they get the water into the glass?
And how is it not floating out of the glass?
At least the had her tie her hair up

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:


(Image source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri Jun 16 21:34:46 2023 UTC)

CGTN posted a second video on YouTube on December 9, 2021, titled, "Taikonauts teach class on water buoyancy in absence of gravity" In this video astronaut Wang Yaping places an orange ping pong ball in the water jar and pushes it under water with the tip of a straw (0:09 seconds in). The ping pong ball remains suspended in the water and does not bob to the surface. Yaping then gingerly pulls the jar free from the hook-and-loop fastener strip on the table (0:52 seconds in) and gently tosses the jar to Ye Guangfu. The jar tumbles through the air and the water does not spill out. Guangfu has the lid ready and aims to place the lid over the mouth of the jar before he catches it.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image with YouTube screenshots taken on Fri Jun 16 23:06:31 2023 UTC)

There is not a credible argument to deny that the Chinese space program is real. In a January 1, 2023, interview with Politico, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson expressed concerns that the U.S. was in a space race with China over the moon -- but he did not suggest that the Chinese space program was a hoax. Upon the launch of China National Space Agency's first crew to its Tiangong space station, Nelson said in a June 21, 2021 statement:

"Congratulations to China on the successful launch of crew to their space station! I look forward to the scientific discoveries to come."

As for the question of the water in the jar, in a NASA video from the STEMonstrations series on Surface Tension, at the 0:50 mark, the behavior of water in space is described this way:

Surface tension is a property of liquids in which molecules of one substance are more attracted to each other than to molecules of another substance. Water is unique in that it has a high surface tension compared to other liquids.

The screenshots below show additional demonstrations from astronauts showing how liquids behave differently in the absence of gravity. In an April 16, 2013 Canadian Space Agency video on YouTube, astronaut Chris Hadfield (below left) wrings water out of a washcloth on the International Space Station. As he twists the cloth, water collects on the surface of the cloth -- but does not drip away from it -- and the water spreads across Hadfield's hands appearing like a viscous gel.

The image on the right appears (at 04:36 minutes in) in a Vice interview with former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino on the subject of food in space. The strawberry shortcake in this screenshot was served up on board the International Space Station with a little bit of liquid milk, which clings to the strawberries and holds them together. At 05:06 minutes into the video Massimino explains the important role that liquids play in the astronaut's menu:

All of our food items have a little bit of liquidy consistency to them. If you were to just get a bunch of Cheerios on a spoon without any milk -- I mean, they're going to be floating around you're going to be chasing them, so that comes with a little bit of dehydrated milk that would be added -- and then the Cheerios will stay. There's no gravity working on any of this stuff and so the surface tension in the liquid is almost like a glue. It is not glue, but it's almost like a glue. In that surface tension those molecules will stick to the spoon.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image showing Youtube screenshots taken on Mon Jun 19 19:12:01 2023 UTC)

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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