China Runs Alone

Scarlatti is back, sending from Beijing, and switching to english again, for a while at least.

Today, after the (mostly unpleasant) experience of a rush-hour ride on Beijing’s new subway line 10, and the (nearly equally challenging, but much more enlivening) experience of a rush-hour bike ride through Haidian district, we are reporting live from the start of Shenzhou 7, China’s current manned space mission. English language channel CCTV-9 is featuring a live program on the launch. All these reporters and experts with their charming chinese accent…!! 🙂

Whereas the Shengzhou 5 launch five years ago was not reported live but presented only as a post-facto delayed report, this time the whole nation is participating in the event with held breath. Commentators during the program compare the chinese space program favourably with the US/Soviet cold war efforts: China is setting its own time table!

After President Hu Jintao has entered the control center near the launch pad, a local officer and one of the astronauts exchange shouted greetings.

Minus fifteen minutes has passed. Tension is rising. Last time I have watched such an event must have been at one of the early US trips to the moon in 69 or 70, with reporters like Werner Büdeler reporting live from Cape Kennedy.

Now it’s minus five. CCTV has simply stopped giving comments, in the chinese program as well as on CCTV-9, we only hear the breathing of the reporters.

Two Minutes left… One minute left (一分钟之内)…

[21:10] 五-四-三-二-一! There they go!!!! What a sight!

[21:26] Seems to be a smooth ride, one of the experts calls it a “textbook flight”, another a “perfect launch”. The launch phase proper is now over, the solar panels are already expanded, the ship has reached its temporary orbit.

(And while President Hu is shaking hands with every scientist involved in the mission, Scarlatti is quietly leaving the arena.)