Wan Hu - World's First "Astronaut"
According to legend, Wàn Hu or Wàn Hù (d. ca. 1500) was a minor Chinese official of the Ming dynasty and the world's first "astronaut".
"Early in the sixteenth century, Wan decided to take advantage of China's advanced rocket and fireworks technology to launch himself into outer space. He supposedly had a chair built with forty-seven rockets attached. On the day of lift-off, Wan, splendidly attired, climbed into his rocket chair and forty seven servants lit the fuses and then hastily ran for cover. There was a huge explosion. When the smoke cleared, Wan and the chair were gone, and was said never to have been seen again."
Illustration of Wan Hu from Civil Air Patrol
In most Chinese versions of Wan Hu's story, he is described as an unfortunate pioneer of space travel who was burnt to death because of the explosion caused by the rockets, instead of being the first astronaut in history.
And this fits perfectly with MythBusters' version of this legend.
What did they found out:
The combined heat from all 47 gunpowder-powered bamboo rockets caused them to explode, nearly destroying the throne and doing significant damage to the stand-in astrologer (Buster) before it ever got off the ground. A throne powered by 47 modern I-power rocket engines shot violently to one side, due to uneven firing, and weight balance, but would not have had the thrust to lift the chair very far at all, let alone all the way into space.
The chair exploded on the launch pad, with the crash test dummy showing what would be severe burns. An attempt was also made using a chair with modern rockets attached, however, the uncontrollable craft proved that there were far too many complications for such a thing to have succeeded. It was determined that small rockets that can be strapped to a chair cannot provide sufficient thrust to effectively lift it, giving the legend the label of myth "busted".