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2011: A space odyssey fit for two

(China Daily)

13:24, October 26, 2011

Most Chinese middle school students are familiar with the story of Wan Hu, who tried to become the world's first "astronaut".

He was a smart and fantastic carpenter, and some scholars believe he was a minor Chinese official of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). He invented the first rocket chair, a device designed to take him into the sky.

China's pride in four great inventions - paper, printing, gunpowder and the compass - extends to the country's having the first recorded "astronaut".

However, after those students are enrolled in colleges, or even earlier, they are likely to be made aware that the origin of modern rocket science and technology is rooted in Europe.

This two-pronged knowledge helps to improve mutual understanding of Chinese and Europeans. When Chinese reflect on the space achievements of their compatriots, they feel pride in ancient Chinese scientific glory. At the same time they have subtle respect for Europe, the cradle of modern space technology.

By and large, Europeans would be unaware of the multiplicity of thought and feelings by Chinese on this matter.

On Sept 29, two days before China's National Day, the unmanned module Tiangong-1, carried by the Long March II-F T1 rocket, lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. Tiangong-1 separated from the rocket on its way into orbit, and China's space dream moved closer to reality.

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