Great Leap Skyward

As U.S. and Russian efforts stall, China's space program aims to catch up, and then some

The Chinese have long looked to the skies--at least since Wan Hu, a 16th century official, lashed 47 gunpowder rockets to a chair with kites attached to it, ignited the rockets and vanished in a plume of smoke, never to be heard from again. With technology having improved significantly since then, the Chinese are on the verge of sending a Long March 2F rocket hurtling into space from a secret launch facility near the Gobi Desert. The payload: Shenzhou (divine vessel), a capsule carrying China's first astronaut. The mission: enter a low Earth orbit, circle the globe 14 times, then parachute...

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