Five years ago, it was Yáng Lìwěi in "divine/sacred vessel" # 5 or Shenzhou 5. Now, it's Zhái Zhìgāng in Shenzhou 7. I bet the proudest among all the Chinese in this "Great Leap Upward" fever are the people from Northeast (dongbei) China, home to the provinces of Liáoníng (Liao from Liao Dynasty + ning, "peacefulness"), Hēilóngjiāng ("black dragon river") and Jílín ("promising forest"). Why should they be not? After all, Yang -- the first Chinese in space* -- is from Suizhong County, Huludao City, Liaoning while Zhai -- the first Chinese spacewalker -- is from Longjiang County, Qiqijar, Heilongjiang.
Yang's monument now shines at an intersection in Suizhong. I'm sure Zhai's statue will soon rise at the center of Longjiang. Yang, by the way, did not see the Great Wall from up there, thus forever consigning to the "UrbanLegends" vault the decades-old belief that the said structure is the only human structure visible from space.
China intends to put up a spacelab by 2011. Will a taikonaut from Jilin be in the space team by then?
Anyways, let me just say to our pengyou zai Dongbei, jiayou!
Now, if only Hu Jintao and his government can send all the China-based manufacturers of poison-tainted products to space without the feitian ("flying in the sky") spacesuits...
* Astronautrix.com might not fully agree to this claim. It names the following astronauts with Chinese roots:
- William Anders (one flight, 6.13 days total time: Apollo 8), born in Hong Kong on 17 October 1933. Certainly the first person born in China to have orbited the moon!
- Shannon Lucid, (five flights, total time 223.12 days, STS-51-G, STS-34, STS-43, STS-58, STS-79), born in Shanghai on 14 January 1943.
- Taylor Gun-Jin Wang (one flight, total time 7.01 days: STS-51-B), born in Shanghai on June 16, 1940, an American citizen since 1975.
- Franklin Chang-Diaz (six flights, total time 52.91 days: STS-61-C, STS-34, STS-46, STS-60, STS-75, STS-91) born in Costa Rica, with some Chinese ancestors but considers himself a Hispanic-American.
- Edward Tsang Lu (two flights, total time 21.02 days: STS-84, STS-106), born in in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1963.