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    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."

    Wan Hu Astronaut
    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".


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    Your Comments:

    1. STANLEY LOWE says:

      THIS STORY OF WAN HU MAY BE CUREPTED WHEN IN WWII JAPAN INVADED CHINA. A BIT OF DIGGING INTO CHINESE HISTORY AND THE POINT THE PICTURE OFTEN USED FOR THE STORY DOESN'T CONTAIN CHINESE PEOPLE AND THE LETTERING IS NOT CHINESE AND NOT IN ANY LANGUAGE KNOWN. A STUDY ON THE STORYS PARTS AS THE USE OF HUMAN LIFTING KITES CAN GO BACK TO A 6TH CENTURY EMPEROR NAMD 'KOW YANG" I BELIEVE WHO THROUGH TIED LARGE BAMBOO MAT WINGS TO SOME PERSONS AND THREW THEN FROM A TOWER TO SEE IF ANY COULD FLY AND A 2ND LOT INTO LARGE KITES AND ONE OF THE 2ND GROUP LANDED SAFEL ONLY TO DIE LOCKED UP AND STARVED TO DEATH.
      LATER STORIES TELL OF OTHERS AND EVEN MARKO POLO WROTE ON LARGE KITES BIG ENOUGH TO CARRY PEOPLE BEING USED AS OMENS FOR TESTING THE SAFETY OF A SHIP. SO THAT PART OF THE STORY MAY WELL BE TRUE. THE NUMBERS OF ROCKETS USE MAY OF ONLY BEEN 42 AND NOT 47 AND THEY WERE SET IN A 6 BY 7 MATRIX TO PUSH THE CHAIR WITH ITS KITE OR KITES TO FLY. IF THE FUZES WERE ALL TIED AS A PIG-TAIL THEN ONLY ONE SERVANT WAS NEEDED TO LIGHT OFF THE ROCKETS AND WAN HU MAY OF BEEN THE 1ST TO FLY A ROCKET POWERED HANG GLIDER. THE EXPLOSION MAY WELL OF HAPPENED AFTER TAKE OFF AND WAN HU WAS HIGH IN THE AIR. ADDING SMOKE BOMBS OR USING ROCKETS THAT MADE LOSTS OF SMOKE COULD OF CUT A CLEAR SIGHT OF JUST HAPPENED. FINNALY THE POWER OF THE ROCKETS COULD OF BROKE HIS NECK OR SO ADDELED WAN HU AND LOW CLOUDS AND A LOSS OF HIS MIND AND LANDING OVER THE GREAT WALL INTO MONGGOUL LANDS WOULD MEEN NO ONE WAS TO HEAR FROM HIM AGIN. WHY HE SET OFF ON THE ADVENTURE MAY OF HAD OTHER REASONS; IE TO GET AWAY FROM A NAGGING WIFE, A WILD IDEA HE WANTED TO TEST BEFOR MAKING A DESPLAY BEFOR THE EMPEROR RASING HIS PLACE BUT ALL WENT BADLY. IF WAN HU SURVIVED AND LOST HIS MIND AND LIVED THE REST OF HIS LIFE IN MONGUL LANDS A HUNT IN MONGUL STORIES MIGHT GIVE SOME MISSING BIT TO THE STORY.

      Posted on December 30, 2007 at 16:48

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