The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: A photo published Oct. 26, 2021, in a Facebook post claims to show three Chinese astronauts having a barbecue with an open fire in their spaceship.
- The photo was originally captured from a news report broadcast Oct. 17, 2021, by Xinwen Lianbo (literally news simulcast), a daily news program produced by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). During the 34- to 37-second mark of the news clip, three astronauts – Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu – can be seen eating in China’s Shenzhou-13 spacecraft. However, the food they were eating was packaged in aluminum foil. It was not freshly grilled. In addition, no barbecue grill nor any footage of people having a barbecue can be found during the full news clip.
- An article published June 18, 2013, by NASA Science claims that in microgravity, flames burn differently—they form ring-shaped cool flames. Therefore, because hot luminous flames are not possible in microgravity, the photo presented with the claim has been altered.
- Our ruling: Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
A photo published Oct. 26, 2021, in a Facebook post claims to show three Chinese astronauts having a barbecue with an open fire in their spaceship. The translated caption states, “Our country is so powerful that even astronauts can have a barbecue in space. Look how enjoyable they are.”
As of the issuance of this report, the post had been shared 21 times, and had received 137 comments and 591 likes and reactions.
A reverse image search on Google found the original photo was broadcast Oct. 17, 2021, in the “Xinwen Lianbo” program (literally news simulcast) broadcast by China’s state media CCTV. The 34- to 37-second mark during the news clip shows the astronauts eating food packaged in aluminum foil, not freshly grilled, in their Shenzhou-13 spacecraft. The news anchor said they were having lunch. A screenshot comparison (see below) confirmed that these two photos were taken under the same backdrop. In addition, no barbecue grill nor any footage of people having a barbecue can be found during the full news clip. Therefore, the photo presented with the claim has been altered.
According to the Xinwen Lianbo’s news report, Chinese astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu were on their Shenzhou-13 mission. After stationed in the Tianhe core module on Oct. 16, 2021, they started setting out equipment and installation work. At noon of Oct. 17, 2021, they started eating lunch. According to a news report by TVB News, the astronauts on the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft have more than 120 nutritious meal options, including porridge, noodles, rice, pork, chicken, vegetables, drinks and soups, as well as anti-fatigue and immune-boosting foods. But barbecue is not listed as an option.
An article published June 18, 2013, by NASA Science explains how flames were formed on the International Space Station (ISS). The article discusses an ISS experiment called “FLEX,” conducted by Forman A. Williams, a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. Williams claimed flames burn differently in microgravity, forming ring-shaped cool flames (see the below image). According to a journal article published Nov. 2, 2020, titled “Engineering Challenges of Artificial Gravity Stations,” as of the day of its publication, all space stations to date have been zero-g facilities. A keyword search did not produce any relevant information of artificial gravity systems installed on the Shenzhou-13 vessel or the Tianhe core module. During the 36-second mark of the news clip, aluminum foil was floating weightlessly within the spacecraft. During the 9-second mark of the news clip, the astronauts were also floating weightlessly in the same area. It can be concluded that the astronauts in the Shenzhou-13 vessel were in microgravity. Therefore, the hot luminous flames shown in the claim can’t be produced within the spaceship.
Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- Facebook post, Oct. 2021
- CCTV, “Shenzhou-13 astronauts enter Tianzhou-3 cargo craft and carry out cargo transfer work as planned,” Oct. 17, 2021.
- TVB News, “Shenzhen-13 astronauts brought Chinese New Year food into space station,” 9, 2021.
- NASA SCIENCE, “Strange Flames on the ISS,” June 18, 2013.
- Space Station Research Explorer on NASA.gov, Flame Extinguishment Experiment.
- Aerospace Research Central, “Engineering Challenges of Artificial Gravity Stations,” Nov. 2, 2020.
- Xinhua Net, “China aerospace entering into a critical period of space station setup—interview with Hao Chun, Director of China Manned Space Engineering Office,” April 29, 2021.
- CNR, “Official release of Shenzhou-13 flight crew! Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu set off on the early morning of Oct. 16,” 14, 2021.