Chinese Taikonaut Zhai Zhigang has very recently completed his first spacewalk for China, making China the third country to do so, after the former Soviet Union and the United States. Space exploration has always been a fascination for ancient civilizations and the ancient Chinese was no different.
The early Chinese fire arrows had certain things in common with modern skyrockets, they were basically tubes of gunpowder lighted at the bottom where explosive thrusts moved them in the opposite direction, These were similar in principle to the space booster rockets used to launch payloads into space today.
Ancient Flying Dragon Rockets
In the 16th Century during the Ming Dynasty, there lived a carpenline-height:23pxter by the name of Wan Hu. He was highly-skilled in all forms of carpentry works and was soon enlisted into the army to oversee the construction of military wares. It was during his stint in the army that he first encountered fire powder and rockets. During the Ming Dynasty, small scaled rockets were already in use to power arrows against the invading Mongols.
A Loaded Flying Dragon Rocket
Wan Hu helped developed a form of rocket known as the Flying Dragon. These rockets would have the Dragon Head and Tail carved at each of their ends, with their stomachs filled with gun powder and propelled by two cylinders at the tail ends. The Flying Dragon were capable of reaching up to one kilometer in range.
Wan Hu - Sitting on his self-made space craft
Dreamed of exploring the sky, Wan Hu set out to built what was the first attempt of a space rocket. On one particular day, Wan Hu built a ‘Chair’ with two huge kites attached and another 47 gunpowder rockets fixed to the bottom. His intention was to use the thrusts of the 47 rockets to propel himself high above the ground, and from there, to glide through the air using the two huge kites. The rockets were ignited, presumably with “punk”, a dry, spongy material prepared from fungi and used to ignite firework fuses. In the ensuing explosion and after the smoke has cleared, Wan Hu and his ‘Chair’ had disappeared and never to be seen again. No one knows whether Wan Hu has ever made it.
Beijing Olympics - Giant globe rising signifying the launch of a spacecraft with the hue then turned slowly to yellowish, symbolising the future exploratory missions from the pale Blue Planet to the bright golden Saturnian world
The Wan–Hoo Crater on the Moon was one of the nine lunar features with a Chinese name and that was named after this astonishing space explorer well ahead of his time. During the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Yang Liwei, the first Chinese Taikonaut was the first torch bearer in Beijing and in the Opening Ceremony, the torch was passed through a performance representing the development of Chinese civilisation from horse riding to ship boarding before being lited by Li Ning after a breathtaking ‘Space Run’.
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