“Whoosh!” China blasts off, again

The Shenzhou VI successfully blasted off from China’s Gobi Desert earlier today for a planned 5-day mission. The mission is both longer and riskier than that of the Shenzhou V in 2003. Unlike China’s tentative maiden space flight, the launch was given blanket coverage on state television – with the theme of the 1970s U.S. cult sci-fi series “Battlestar Galactica” as background music.

China’s state media, as expected, went into overdrive. Premier Wen Jiabao said “The astronauts will accomplish the glorious and sacred mission and will once again show that the Chinese people have the will, confidence and capability to mount scientific peaks ceaselessly.” A Chinese gentleman watching on a big-screen outside Beijing Railway Station said, “The Shenzhou liftoff brings pride to our divine land, pride to our Chinese people, pride to our country and pride to humankind.”

Although the launch was shown live, foreign reporters were barred from the launch site and authorities, at the last minute, turned away a number of Hong Kong reporters who had been invited to attend. A few selected Chinese state media reporters were allowed in but were warned that they could be ordered to hand over film and video – presumably in case anything went wrong. Other reporters who attempted to get within 50 miles of the site were turned away.

Although the goals of China’s space program mainly concern the bolstering of national pride, international prestige and commercial and scientific development, space technology could also potentially improve China’s military capabilities. The U.S. sees China’s space ambitions as an increasing serious security concern and a direct challenge to U.S. dominance in space. Phillip Saunders of the Pentagon-linked I.N.S.S. said that the U.S. is concerned that China might eventually develop the ability to attack US satellites, of which the U.S. is extremely dependent. He added that as China’s space technology improves, it will be able to enhance its other military capabilities. The Rumsfeld Commission report once warned of the potential of a “Pearl Harbor in space” – a surprise attack by China on US military satellites.

Chinese space officials said that they hope to land an unmanned probe on the Moon by 2010 and launch a fully functioning space station by 2020.

China’s space budget is conservatively estimated to be US$2.2 billion per year, compared to NASA’s US$16 billion. While China is already a player in the commercial satellite business, critics question the ever-increasing costs of the space budget as the country changes to a full market economy, citing the shocking state of the, particularly rural, health and education systems.

However, I wish the two astronauts, Mr. Fei Junlong and Mr. Nie Haisheng a successful mission and, most importantly, a safe journey home.

UPDATE: This article discusses China’s space ambitions vis-à-vis the U.S.

The Discussion: 33 Comments

Apart from my usual complaint about the government spending an insane amount of money in order to send people spinning around the globe(military use my ass), I must comment about the fantasic wording.

“Sacred mission” and “divine land” really sounds a bit like my friend did when he was doing too much LSD.

October 12, 2005 @ 9:15 am | Comment

Is it just me, or do none of the official photos from either look this launch or the last one look genuine? If nothing else, they look seriously touched up.

I’m not saying they haven’t launched the rockets … it’s the photos that I’m questioning.

October 12, 2005 @ 9:57 am | Comment

Come on, outerspace is such a big pie. Needn’t to feel that bad, you greedy American!

October 12, 2005 @ 2:01 pm | Comment

I want to know why they did this:

Also sent into the space are four embroidery pieces featuring signs of China’s second manned space flight … the first three pieces will be used for scientific research after the craft returns. Each of the four weighs no more than 200 grams.

Embroidery? Is there some stitch that can only be done in a zero-G environment???

October 12, 2005 @ 2:22 pm | Comment

There was an interesting commentary on BBC last night. The analyst pointed out that China’s space budget was part of the military budget and if it wasn’t spent on space exploration it would probably not be spent on the real things that make a country strong such as education and healthcare.

Did I read correctly that they also sent some mooncakes up? I thought they were committed to the peaceful exploration of space? There is now and mooncake and embroidery gap in the making.

October 12, 2005 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

Mooncakes? I think you’re right, GWBH, that violates international treaties on militarizing space. Next thing y’know they’ll be bring baijiu up there.

October 12, 2005 @ 8:36 pm | Comment

How about bring a Giant Panda for a ride next time?

Sorry to everyone here that the Chinese government didn’t consult you on what they should bring with them on this mission…..hahaha…Maybe next time when YOUR spacecraft goes up, you can offer YOUR opinion to YOUR government and see if they listen…hhaha….I know the answer…and the answer is they will tell you to go take a hike somewhere….

October 12, 2005 @ 9:32 pm | Comment

Hey, I honestly want to know what research involves weightless embroidery.

October 12, 2005 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

Chinese Queenie,

Nobody is questioning the right of the Chinese government to carry out whatever experiments up there they see fit. The question was, what could they possibly be using embroidery for? I’d ask the same question if the US was sending up stitchings.

Don’t be so paranoid

My only question, as others brought up, is the cost. There is no way China should be receiving any international aid at all if they can fund a space program. As to setting up a space station, that’s pretty pricy as well.

October 12, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Damn, what a missed opportunity. Why didn’t they send Da Shan up there? I mean, just as an experiment to see how long he a shit-eating grin can last without any oxygen.

October 12, 2005 @ 11:30 pm | Comment

damn, typo. I meant, “how long A shit eating grin can last without oxygen”

October 12, 2005 @ 11:31 pm | Comment

Send Da Shan, I want to see how long he can eat mooncakes and do embroidery in a no oxygen environment.

October 12, 2005 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

They have, indeed, provided the astronauts with “pineapple-filled mooncakes”. Mmmm.

I was disappointed to learn that plans to test pig semen for something or other in microgravity had to be abandoned.

October 13, 2005 @ 12:14 am | Comment

Maybe they wanted to see if you could wash pineapple filling and pig semen out of embroidered clothing. Sometimes you just can’t do it all.

October 13, 2005 @ 1:31 am | Comment

“Phillip Saunders of the Pentagon-linked I.N.S.S. said that the U.S. is concerned that China might eventually develop the ability to attack US satellites, of which the U.S. is extremely dependent”

I’m all for this, anything that evens up the score between China and the US can only be good news, force America to stay at the negotiating table by making a war too costly to fight.


October 13, 2005 @ 2:23 am | Comment

it’s really a ÓôÃÆµÄ event.
two questions:
does it deserve.
why one can become a hero and adhere at the top news after staying at space, while a monkey or a dog, if be carried, can’t.

October 13, 2005 @ 3:18 am | Comment


How you can say pineapple filling and semen embrodery is big joke on China? Maybe you try to weaken China, you talk on the semen like America hegemony.

How you can compare semen and the Human Right? You think America pig better than China pig? Which pig you think have better human right? Maybe China semen better because have more stability.

Ivan the utterly deranged, babbling Chinese Nationalist.

October 13, 2005 @ 3:45 am | Comment

GBMB, whether the space ship money would not be spent on the military or not, I think that the pla gets plenty of good lovin from the gov anyhows. I cannot see that if the money were not spent on moon rockets, then it would be spent on army stuff. Money is money. This is just another way for the glorious ccp to keep the masses attention away from their shitty lives and their shitty future.

October 13, 2005 @ 8:44 am | Comment

Within a few decades, they lead the people to build up their country out of chaos and ruins (which they are also partly responsible), I wouldnt call their future ‘shitty’ because obviously they have great potential. (despite being communistic). North Korea is more fitting for such remarks.

October 13, 2005 @ 12:32 pm | Comment

Hey, today (it’s still Oct. 13 where I am) is Nie Haisheng’s 41st birthday. Mine too. 🙂

October 13, 2005 @ 2:50 pm | Comment


I’m tired of hearing this nationalist victimhood tripe. A joke is a joke.

You say that maybe Chinese pig semen is more stable. But what price stability when the CCP controls all the pig semen? And why do they not accelerate their pig semen program? American pig semen is better than Chinese pig semen. I don’t say this to mean China is inferior – one of the reasons our pig semen is superior is precisely because we’ve improved it using the space program for 40 years.

So why doesn’t the CCP take pig semen on this trip? Easy: they want to keep you down, man. They don’t want Chinese people to have zero-G super space pig semen. But don’t blame us for that.

October 13, 2005 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

For some perspective: The amount is costs to send the rockets to space is the same as the amount it costs to combat the spread of desertification towards Beijing.

October 13, 2005 @ 5:43 pm | Comment


I think we should be more concerned about how China’s rapacious demand for pig semen is raising prices globally. This could lead to a pig semen crash around the globe, and God knows none of us want that to happen.

October 13, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

As in all industries JD, I say the demand will increase global prices initially but Chinese domestic production will soon flood the world market. Perhaps some short-term gain but, in the long run, dire news for the world economy.

I read an article this morning which quotes a few think tank people on the potential long term threat from, not Pigs in Space, but China in space. I’ve tagged it onto the end of the post.

October 13, 2005 @ 9:50 pm | Comment

Yknow that China is gonna ship all that good pig semen out to overseas markets, and domestically people are going to get remainder pig semen. It just makes me so sad that the CPC really isn’t giving the Chinese people the pig semen they deserve.

It’s all part of China’s soft power strategy. If they become the world leader in pig semen, then the U.S. becomes… number two in pig semen. I’ve heard the Heritage Foundation has a whole team working on that one.

October 13, 2005 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

Is it just me, or is all this talk about pig semen also making everybody else really thirsty?

October 13, 2005 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

….and davsgonechina….we haven’t even TOUCHED upon the daunting spectre of pirated, faked and copied pig semen. Don’t go there.

October 14, 2005 @ 12:05 am | Comment

Oh, tell me about it. The number of times I’ve thought I was getting a good deal on some cut-price pig semen, only for it to turn out to be rat semen or similar, doesn’t even bear thinking about.

October 14, 2005 @ 12:40 am | Comment

One time I bought some pig semen in Shanghai. Turned out it was just shampoo. Ruined my whole evening.

October 14, 2005 @ 12:50 am | Comment

That sounds absolutely dreadful dave. I’m amazed that you can talk about it even now. You must be made of solid stuff my friend, solid stuff.

October 14, 2005 @ 1:10 am | Comment

It’s probably for the best that the astronauts didn’t take any valuable pig semen samples up with them.

I mean, imagine breaking the container and spilling pig semen all over the shop in zero gravity. You’d really have egg on your face then.

October 14, 2005 @ 1:34 am | Comment

Hah. Yes. Pig semen in space. What will those crazy Chinese think of next?

October 15, 2005 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

The “faked photos” of Shenzhou landing are actually part of a series of genuine CGI shots released by Xinhua and CRI.


Some anti-China conspiracy theorists are depicting them as if they were released as real photos, so they can claim that China is releasing (obviously CGI) fake images to cover up the fact that (they suspect) there was no manned mission.

No one would have just been standing around with a camera at the exact spot and moment Shenzhou landed anyway.

October 19, 2005 @ 2:44 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.