Close Encounters

Forget China's astronauts. The country's most famous intergalactic traveler lives in the last house on his lane at the edge of a Siberian forest. Meng Zhaoguo's odyssey began at the Red Flag logging camp in the Manchurian province of Heilongjiang, when he saw a metallic glint thrown off nearby Mount Phoenix. Thinking a helicopter had crashed, he set out to scavenge for scrap. The 36-year-old lumberjack stood gazing at the wreck from across a valley when "Foom! Something hit me square in the forehead and knocked me out."

That collision four years ago, and what followed, has made...

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