Second space voyage for China
by Henrietta Wang
Shenzhou 6 blasted into orbit on October 12th, proving once and for all that China is at the cutting edge of 1960s technology. Following hot on the heels of the world powers of the United States and the long-defunct Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China has put cosmonauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng into space with the important mission of floating around a bit and then coming home.
Replicating research done decades ago, scientists will observe the reactions of the crew in a weightless environment, thus providing much-needed information that has been in the public domain for only thirty years. They will definitely not be doing any experiments that relate to the military use of spacecraft, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool and a malicious scaremonger who desires only to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Sadly, rumours that the cosmonauts were to take samples of pig semen into space with them proved unfounded.
The PRC has recently been forced to dismantle one of its space tracking stations on the island nation of Kiribati, after the government there took the ludicrous step of establishing diplomatic ties with the completely independent government of Taiwan and so breaching the "One China" policy, which makes nothing short of complete sense. This metaphorical stamping of the foot like a petulant child leaves China with only one land-based tracking station, in Namibia. Instead, the Beijing Aerospace Command is operating four tracking ships - one about 1500km south west of French Polynesia, with others off the coast of Western Australia, near Namibia and in the Yellow Sea.
Fei Junlong (left) and Nie Haisheng try, and fail, to look interested in Hu Jintao's interminable pre-launch address
International reaction was blindingly positive. The Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA) "is very pleased with the launch", said agency chief Anatoly Perminov. Meanwhile, in Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda hoped the crew would have a safe return and pointed out that the development in China of manned spacecraft was "not a military threat". Eyewitnesses suggest he was tapping furiously on a wooden surface as he said this.
Elsewhere, pundits have expressed admiration at the fact that a country incapable of producing commercial airliners has managed to somehow produce a spaceship. At home in China, people are also expressing their happy happy joy feelings. "I may be living in abject poverty," said dying sexagenarian peasant Wu Fenglie, "but knowing that Chinese people are in space makes everything, including the recent brain damage my son sustained after being beaten by police for handing in a petition against water pollution, seem worthwhile." Shenzhou 5 cosmonaut Yang Liwei was available for comment but deemed too boring to actually interview.