China Space Programme: Shenzhou 5 – Knocking in Space (2003)


In 2003, during the successful launch of Shenzhou 5, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) became only the third country in history to ‘independently’ place a living human-being in space. The other two counties to achieve this outstanding technological achievement has been the Soviet Union (USSR), and the United States of America (USA). This means that two of these three countries have possessed a progressive ‘Socialist’ regime (i.e. the USSR and the PRC), whilst the third operates a regressive system of predatory capitalism. Furthermore, where the USSR collapsed due to mismanagement in 1991, the USA has all but given-up on initiating any progressive space programmes involving sending living human-beings to the outer reaches of space. On the other hand, China’s space programme is going from strength to strength, and active steps are being taken to land PRC cosmonauts on the Moon, and then on Mars, etc. Currently, the US is ‘banned’ from the Russian-owned International Space Station for its policy of supporting the neo-Nazi ‘Madan’ regime currently operating in Western Ukraine (a bizarre situation that began under the presidency of Barack Obama).

In a book about his experiences a the first PRC cosmonaut in space, Yang Liwei (楊利偉) has stated that whilst in Earth’s orbit, he heard a loud ‘knocking’ on the hull of his space-craft. It sounded like a wooden hammer striking a metal bucket. It could last for minutes at a time, and be quite regular, or appear for just a few seconds. It would begin unexpectedly, and end suddenly. Yang Liwei kept a level-head and visually inspected the out-hull through the port-holes, and then carefully checked the on-board operating manual to see if there was a technical problem that had been anticipated by the scientific designers, and which he could repair in space. Obviously, this must have been a highly stressful experience, as this ‘knocking’ sound was unexpected and could have suggested the development of a life-threatening fault in the system. Yang Liwei records his experiences and the PRC’s first cosmonaut in his 2010 Chinese language biography ‘天地九重’ (Tian Di Jiu Chong) or ‘Sky and Earth – Double Auspiciousness’. However, this book appears to carry the English title ‘The Long March to Space’. In its original Chinese language title, this appears to be an allusion to the ancient Chinese book of wisdom – the ‘Yijing’ (易經), or ‘Change Classic’. This book is exclusively published by the ‘People’s Liberation Army Press’. Yang Liwei, of course, is a major-general in the ‘People’s Liberation Army Airforce’ (PLAAF), whilst his partner is an officer in the ‘People’s Liberation Army’ (PLA). He explains further in his book that as the operation of the space-craft was ‘normal’ from a technical position, he chose not to report the incident at that time, but waited until ‘de-briefing’ safely back on Earth. Yang Liwei also checked the internal structure of the space-craft, but found nothing amiss. His experience is interesting, as PRC cosmonauts on Shenzhou 6 and Shenzhou 7 also reported this strange ‘knocking’ phenomenon.

Chinese Language References:



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