Roar in the Gobi

China launched its second manned spaceflight today. The Shenzhou VI capsule carried two astroanauts (taikonaut is the word used previously, though I’m not seeing it employed this time around) and much-improved living quarters into orbit a few hours ago for a 5-7 day trip around the Earth. A module attached to the capsule itself will be left in space, presumably as some kind of remote-controlled lab, but details are vague. Vagueness is typical of the Chinese space program, but my colleagues in Beijing confirm that the launch itself was a big news event, broadcast live on state TV. That’s progress. The first launch — like the first Soviet launches so long ago — was kept a secret until the capsule was safely in orbit.

A light snow was falling at liftoff, reports say. I’d like to see a picture of that. There’s something about a light blanketting of snow preceding the cataclysm of a rocket launch that’s pleasantly odd, almost like a Photoshopped image.

One wonders if this launch was actually delayed since last week the People’s Republic celebrated National Day and a launch event, source of such national pride, would have made sense then. If it was delayed this is a good sign that China has their launch priorities in line. Perhaps they’ve learned from the close-calls the early Soviet space program had in trying to launch in conjunction with politically-significant events.

The long march to the moon continues.