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[Opinion] China’s Chang’er Project

Posted October. 14, 2005 07:36,   


An ancient Chinese myth says that Yi and Chang’er were once dispatched to the earth to eliminate the 10 Suns, but by fulfilling the mission, the couple incurred the Jade Emperor’s anger instead and was not allowed to return to Heaven. In order to curry favor with his frustrated wife, Yi visited the Queen Mother of the West and received two peaches from her. Eating one of the peaches guaranteed eternal youth and immortality, and eating two peaches meant becoming a heavenly god. Chang’er ate both of them and fled to the moon.

The Chinese press reported two years ago that according to research by anthropologists, the Queen Mother of the West, the supreme queen appearing in the Chinese myth, was a real-life figure. It seems that some might even claim one day that Chang’er actually existed, as well, for China’s space development project is titled “Chang’er,” a name alluding to the search for the immortal god from the myth in the 21st century.

China is planning to launch its moon probe Chang’er I in two years, and hopes to complete the development of a piloted spacecraft that will return to the Earth after landing on the moon by the year 2013.

The success of Shenzhou 6, China’s second manned spacecraft launched the day before yesterday and two years after China’s first manned space launch, is an indication that the project is underway as scheduled. The two astronauts aboard the “Vessel of God,” reportedly had moon cakes for their first meal in space. The moon cake is a traditional Chinese dish that Chinese people enjoy during the moon festival. Chewing the moon cake, they might have looked forward to meeting Chang’er on the moon one day.

The 1.3 billion population of China is going wild over the success of the Shenzhou 6 mission so far. Some say the launch of the spacecraft has contributed to the national integration of 56 ethnicities across China. Others believe the achievement is an opportunity to show off China’s rapidly growing power to the whole world.

One country that might be anxious over the Chinese space program might be the United States. It might even be possible that Asian “Taikonauts” (the Chinese term for astronauts) might someday appear as enemy troops in Hollywood space war movies.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com