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
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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.