Sep 25

Shenzhou 7 Spacecraft Blasts Off

Written by Nimrod on Thursday, September 25th, 2008 at 9:18 pm
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This morning, the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft carrying Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, and Jing Haipeng successfully took off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and entered orbit. This is a major event in China, as a space walk (the first for the Chinese space program) is planned on this 3-day mission (on the 27th).

Shenzhou 7 launched by a Long March 2F rocket

Here is a full version.

As the name implies, this is the seventh mission of the Shenzhou manned space program, of which Shenzhou 5, Shenzhou 6, and now Shenzhou 7 actually carried humans. There are further missions in the Shenzhou series to construct and dock with a mini space station. Beyond that, the Chinese space program has plans and timelines for lunar and Mars exploration.

Space is an interesting topic. China has been politely refused participation in the International Space Station program, and generally, the United States and its allies see China’s space program in a militaristic light. This can be a sore point between the two countries, and extends to anything having to do with high technology. Just today, there is report of a Chinese-born physicist being arrested for allegedly illegal technology transfer. In recent years, a rising number of similar arrests of business professionals and even academics have been observed.

Meanwhile, Chinese around the world have stayed up late or gotten up early to enjoy the live feed of the launch, and discuss it with each other.

The family of one of the astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, watches anxiously on TV

Fudan University students in Shanghai watching the launch in dormitory

Little kids in Henan Province excited about Shenzhou 7 Launch

On Tianya, people are wishing the mission well, with the main dissenting voices questioning the utility of the space program and its cost, as well as referencing the recent Sanlu incident: “Do astronauts drink milk?” asked one netizen.

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39 Responses to “Shenzhou 7 Spacecraft Blasts Off”

  1. berlinf Says:

    I once went to a keynote speech by the author of October Sky on how a group of West Virginia kids was spurred into action by the news that the the Soviets sent Sputnik up there. Recently Garrison Keillor also tells the story of Stephen King watching Earth and Flying Saucer when the theater managed interrupted by saying that the Soviet Union has launched Sputnik.

    I wonder what Shenzhou 7 is going to impact internationally. Certainly not going to be as influencial as Sputnik.

    But it always elevates me to think beyond this old earth laden with its troubles and miseries…

  2. Allen Says:

    Space is an interesting topic. China has been politely refused participation in the International Space Station program, and generally, the United States and its allies see China’s space program in a militaristic light.

    This is an interesting chicken & egg problem. Is China refused participation in the International Space Station program because the Chinese had militaristic ambitions in space OR Is China refused participation because the West has militaristic ambitions in space (thus explaining the perception by so many in the West that China has military ambitions in space)?

  3. Nimrod Says:


    Yes, the impact of the Shenzhou 7 internationally appears to be that it is spurring talk of space development again. Not long after Shenzhou 5 launched (October 2003), Bush made his space plan in a State of Union speech (January 2004). Granted, it was mostly political theater, but lots of people in the US (of the Mars Society type) really think the Chinese are doing them a favor by putting space in the news again.

    Then there is India and Japan, both of which announced or announced upgrades to their space programs in response. Most Chinese are watching the Indian program with amusement and the Japanese program with suspicion (as always, and vice versa). Even though this is “old” technology, it is definitely having at least a small impact internationally. For China, I think it’s always a good thing to develop high-end high-value technology indigenously as it tries to move up the economic value chain, all military implications aside.

  4. Nimrod Says:


    I don’t know about Europe, but it is not in any doubt that the US has primarily military ambitions in space. That’s a given. It doesn’t even pay lip service to peaceful use of space. In fact, the doctrine is to dominate space use for US interests:

    The United States will preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests.

    And this is openly backed up by a vigorous R&D effort in space weaponry.

    The main benefit of China’s space program appears primarily to be the development of the indigenous technology ecosystem and intellectual property base (which have been clobbered by foreign firms since the opening of the 80’s), and the lucrative commercial launch business. The only military benefits I see are the old-school rockets and missiles improvements and some asymmetric deterrence tools in the anti-satellite realm. Nothing all that fancy. Now people always speculate on this and that by claiming China is “secretive”, whatever that means.

  5. Netizen K Says:

    A successful launch. Congrats.

  6. Chops Says:

    The first woman yuhangyuan should be coming soon.

    After all, Mao said “Women hold up half the sky.”

  7. chinayouren Says:

    Well done China, congratulations.

  8. RMBWhat Says:

    I think this is great for China because imho it is cool science and helps to stimulate many fields. But I would like to see more development towards robotic space systems, rather than just putting humans in space. Did you guys hear about Japan’s initiative towards the space elevator!? IMHO the space elevator if awesome, and if realized would be a kick ass revolutionary advancement. The space elevator would have far reaching implications for space research etc, it would kick major ass. The spin-offs of the space elevator such as nano-tubes would really revolutionize our daily lives in a very big way.

    Oh yeah, of course going into space has militaristic implications, one should see immediately past all the b.s. “let’s hold hands in space” b.s. propaganda and realize the obvious. Domination of space means domination of the “highest ground” of them all, hehe. Modern military dominance on the ground relies heavily on space technology (e.g. sats.).

    In other news: Aliens have declared total war on “humans, the primate.” One alien spoke person has stated “the human primate specie are plotting too much on planet earth for full spectrum dominance for far too long. We feel too threatened. Thus, we the aliens must implement the Bush doctrine in space. We must preemptively strike the puny humans, and eliminate the threat once and for all.”


  9. Charles Liu Says:

    In America the actual launch of SZ 7 seems to have taken back seat to the “fake launch” story from AP.

  10. Wukailong Says:

    In Europe, I don’t think there any military uses for space technology. As for the US and China, I think both have military interests in space, though China less so. There are military interests in China too – did everyone forget about the satellite that was shot down by a missile?

  11. Theo Says:

    Oh dear:

    China’s Xinhua news agency reported the successful flight of the Shenzhou VII – complete with detailed dialogue between the astronauts – hours before the nation’s third-ever manned space mission had even lifted off.


  12. S.K. Cheung Says:

    The fanfare seems somewhat reminiscent of the US in the 1960’s. On the one hand, this is a historic achievement for China. On the other hand, in 2008, not a giant leap for mankind. But if it spurs a new generation of Chinese youth to pursue science and innovation, that would be a good thing.

  13. A Nobody Says:

    Former Canadian Defense Minister Paul Hellyer recorded at the April 2008 X-Conference at the National Press Club, Washinghton D.C on how terrible advanced space tech REALLY is…[.not in China]


  14. Chops Says:

    Come to think of it, there were Apollo fake moon landing conspiracies. 🙂


  15. FOARP Says:

    I am a big fan of the space projects of all nations, and I think that the advances that China has made in this field should act as a spur to redoubled effort both here in Europe and also in the United States. Certainly, there is nothing new to astronauts exiting their vehicles and floating around in space, but equally certainly this is not the limit of the capabilities of the Chinese space program – they have much more to show the world.

    It is funny that the article above should give such a Xinhua-style rendering to the reaction of Chinese to the launch, whilst I am very much exited about developments in space, I recognise that the majority of people are very rarely impressed by achievements in this field from any direction. I remember the day of Yang Liwei’s first trip into space, I asked pretty much everybody I knew in Nanjing at the time, and whilst the expats had mostly heard about, almost none of my Chinese acquaintainces had heard of it, or were impressed or excited about it. On acquaintance of mine (a professor of English) expressed the opinion that “Chinese people are not explorers, it is not in our culture”. I do not agree with this, and I hope that the response to this launch was as enthusiastic as the report makes it out to be.

    Finally, on the subject of the pre-launch Xinhua report (which, no doubt, Charles Liu is now going to play up as having been the result of a conspiracy involving the NED), it just shows, yet again, the CCP’s insistance on controlling the news through the issuing of demonstrably false reports. Charles Liu has missed the point, it is not that the launch itself is fake, but that Xinhua’s reporting of it is fake, as is demonstrated by the fact that they accidentally released the fake report before the launch.

  16. Theo Says:

    Has this embarassing blog post been removed from the main site?

    I am puzzled by the Xinhua pre-launch release of the astronauts’ in-flight conversation. Does this mean that what viewers in China saw was a) a recording, b) the astronauts sticking to a pre-recorded script or c) just completely fabricated?

    Weird. And it makes gymnasts’ age fudging look all the more credible.

  17. tontp4 Says:

    Random thought.

    * Congrats. I remembered my older college mate told me how proud he was when China launched the first satellite. It is nationalism.

    * I hope China will not spend a lot but keep it as a viable project for ever. The economical return is diminishing (except the prestige). It is better to spend money/effort to control the quality of the products such as the tinted milk and toys.

    * You need a lot of technologies to support the space program, esp. US and the west deny the dual use technologies. So, it demonstrates how China’s technology advances.

    * There are military uses for sure. Better missiles… China can shoot down all the GPS satellites except theirs, so they can control Taiwan without US missile interferences. However, from the last 5000 years of history, how many times China sent soldiers outside their border (Mongolia is an exception – must be from the outer Mongolia)?

  18. FOARP Says:

    how many times China sent soldiers outside their border (Mongolia is an exception – must be from the outer Mongolia)?

    The answer is: “every country that borders them, plus a few that don’t”

  19. wuming Says:

    Tontp4 and FOARP,

    Trying to stretch it back 5000 years is ridiculous for a host of reasons. But as far as PRC is concerned, correct me if I got this wrong:

    China was involved in military conflicts with: Korea, Russia, India and Vietnam

    China has not fought a war with: Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar and Laos.

  20. tontp4 Says:

    I should say in the last 50 years.Sorry.

    Some are debatable.
    * Vietnam. Most are “assistants” to fight US.
    * Vietnam to teach them a “lesson”. Yes, it is one.
    * North Korean. Get rid of KMT’s army. It is over 50 years.
    * India. It is debatable whether it is Chinese border or not.

    I should say comparing to US, China does not send soldiers outside their border that much.

  21. berlinf Says:

    Every country has the right to defend itself, so I wouldn’t feel ashamed if China does have military intentions. The space belongs to humanilty, not just the US.

    But military intentions and actions that involves the invasion of another country is where we need to draw the line.

    As of now, China does not have military presence beyond our own borders, and the US is fighting two wars abroad. This is quite obvious. I don’t even know why we are even arguing over this.

  22. FOARP Says:

    @berlinf – Who mentioned the US? Of course, if China attracts more allies, then her responsibilities shall also increase, and the permanent basing of China outside her borders will become necessary.

  23. Nimrod Says:

    Theo Says:

    Has this embarassing blog post been removed from the main site?

    I am puzzled by the Xinhua pre-launch release of the astronauts’ in-flight conversation. Does this mean that what viewers in China saw was a) a recording, b) the astronauts sticking to a pre-recorded script or c) just completely fabricated?

    It was removed. What’s the big deal? It was an editor’s mistake to accidently publish it, but as for reporters, they often write up drafts ahead of time.

    Take away the sensationalist spin of “China=fake”, the “conversations” were simply technical back and forths of “everything normal”, which probably means the draft was copied boilerplate from the last two missions.

  24. Charles Liu Says:

    Nim, not to mention after the hatch is shut, radio conversation is the only method of communication. I really wonder what the error really is, or if it’s yest again twisted into a “fake” story.

  25. Daniel Says:

    I say; Congratulations to the Taikonauts!

    I’ve read a lot online, in books ,and heard from some science instructors regarding the criticisms and praises of a Space program in general. The strange thing is most of the commentary on both sides of the spectrum appear quite valid and reasonable.
    So, if they can do it, why not?
    If they don’t want to, then ok.
    There’s not much that can be said for people who aren’t interested in general. Although I think it would be very exciting to see if this could help spur interests for any youth in these type of projects, like SK Cheung said.

  26. Netizen K Says:


    I caught FOARP spreading lies a number of times.

  27. berlinf Says:

    @FOARP – “if China attracts more allies, then her responsibilities shall also increase, and the permanent basing of China outside her borders will become necessary.”

    That’s a big If. China has reaffirmed again and again that it does not seek to form alliance (不结盟运动). This buddy-buddy, Bush-Blair/Brown…concepts are not Chinese.

  28. GNZ Says:

    the US was isolationist – then WWII came along and someone bombed them.

    For China it might be genocide of a foreign Chinese population, for example Indonesia. Or terrorists will blow something up or the USA will collapse and hand it’s best weapons to random people.

    But that (being involved in world affairs) is how it should be – there needs to be someone with their hand on the tiller or we will sink the ship.

  29. berlinf Says:

    Some comic relief about the topic:

  30. Nimrod Says:

    The space walk is scheduled for 16:30 Beijing Time (GMT+8) @ September 27, according to this.

    The person to conduct the walk is to be determined by a last minute onboard medical exam.

  31. Nimrod Says:

    Daniel wrote:

    Although I think it would be very exciting to see if this could help spur interests for any youth in these type of projects, like SK Cheung said.

    Another exciting aspect to me is that this is the second birth of the Chinese space program. Most of the people involved in the space program are under 30, and are fresh, energized, and idealistic. As the technology steadily builds up and extends from replicating what the big two nations have done, it will hopefully turn into a great dream and outlet for a generation of Chinese people.

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Nimrod:
    let’s hope the medical exam is in real-time, and not from their health checks from last week 🙂

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reporters preparing copy ahead of time, especially for “backgrounder” info. But it does seem either a little stupid, or a little suspicious, depending on your POV, to be preparing copy of a conversation that hasn’t occurred yet. Why would that even be necessary? I’m surprised you reached deep to come up with Truman in the 50’s; you could’ve easily used reporters calling Florida for Gore in 2000. The point is the statisticians and bean counters in those cases initially got it wrong, but they weren’t making stuff up out of thin air.

  33. A Nobody Says:

    Follow up on # 13

    “When Dr.Greer, MD, asked the then President Clinton, as the Commander-in-Chief, why he couldn’t disclose this information replied, saying that “we” (i.e. the President & Woolsey, who was CIA Director from ’93 to ’95) have no access to these projects. You see, there is a government behind the elected government which I have no power over.” (Paraphrased) Paul Hellyer, Former Canadian Defense Minister


    I lived for awhile with people who had survived the Holocaust—I lived in Israel for three years—and I learned something very interesting: They were horrified by what the Nazis had done, but they were not surprised. What they were more surprised and horrified by was how the good people looked the other way and didn’t do anything.
    The people who know better, the people who want peace, the people who want justice in the world, the people who want to eliminate poverty, the people concerned about the environment, need to understand that …. this issue and how it’s been managed on Earth by certain Earth powers is the thing that has got to be resolved. It isn’t gonna happen by itself; it’s gonna take courageous action, bold action, unified action, and people educating themselves about what this is really all about.

  34. A Nobody Says:

    berlinf: 哈哈哈…Thanks for video link….”靠, I 服了 You” (my favorite. line)

  35. GNZ Says:

    “turn into a great dream and outlet”

    Indeed it is great not just for what China could achieve in itself but also what it could do for China (and the world) to have a purpose of a sucessful space program.

  36. Chops Says:

    The Chinese media is now using “航天员” for Taikonaut.

    It’s apt for the space walk, since “航天员” can mean Skywalker.

  37. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen K –

    “I caught FOARP spreading lies a number of times.”

    Let me say this once and for all: No you bloody well have not. If you can actually bring up a point on which I have wilfully spread untruths and show the exact statement made by me in which I ‘spread lies’, then do so, but otherwise you might as well just shut up.

  38. RMBWhat Says:

    LMAO at that video.

  39. charles Says:

    foul language removed by admin

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