Wan Hu- The First Astronaut Propelled Into Outer Space?
A crater on the dark side of the moon is named after a Chinese official and poet, Wan Hu, who sought to reach the stars back in 2000 BC. He is regarded as the first man to reach outer space, long before China officially launched a human into Outer Space in 2003. The Soviet Union and the United States of America accomplished the same feat during the infamous Space Race decades earlier.
It is said the roots of this endeavour began as early as 6000 years BC when ancient cultures were trying to understand the qualities of celestial objects. In China, in an area dominated now by the Gobi desert, Wan Hu put into practice a mission to get closer to the stars. So does this mean his mission to step into outer space was successful?
Seeking the stars
An obsession with the stars and space is not a modern concept. It has been observed and studied since ancient times in various ancient empires. For example, since the 6th Century BCE in Ancient China astronomical observations were kept. An astronomer called Gan De made a star map as early as the 4th Century BCE. A few centuries later it is reported that Wan Hu looked to get closer than any person had to the sky. Some reports state he lived as early as 2000 BCE while others place him in the Ming Dynasty around the 16th Century ACE.
Wan Hu strapped himself to a bamboo chair with forty-seven gun-powder filled rockets, and a large kite system for movement and to act like a parachute when returning to the ground. Forty-seven assistants used torches to set light to the rockets, which propelled the wannabee astronaut upwards through a cloud of smoke and a massive explosion. It was said that the rockets exploded at various times, yet no remains were found of the chair or of Wan Hu.
Fact or fiction?
Wan Hu is revered in Chinese legend but most believe the story to be fake or allegory such is the ridiculousness and recklessness of the act. If it happened, then the success of even reaching the sky seems impossible. It seems he was a well-educated man, so it is more likely his experiment was a show. A famous US television program set up a recreation of the event to test the hypothesis,
“The television series Myth busters had attempted to recreate… Wan Hu’s flight by using materials which would have been available to him in an episode aired in 2004. In the experiment, the chair naturally exploded on the launch pad, and the crash test dummy showed what would have been… critical burns.”
Whether true or untrue, it becomes part of humanity’s journey to reach outer space. The reason being is that four thousand years later the dream became a reality,
“In 2003, Yang Liwei was launched aboard Shenzhou 5, becoming the first person sent into space by the Chinese space program.”
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