BEIJING (AFP) — A 42-year-old fighter pilot has been chosen to become the first Chinese person to walk in space, with the historic mission set for September 25, the government said Tuesday.This reminds me of a curious incident that happened several years ago when I was discussing travel plans with an Australian and a Chinese friend in Sichuan. The Chinese girl was heading north into Xinjiang (or maybe Gansu), where we had just come from, so we were giving her tips on what we thought were the best places to visit. However there was one town she mentioned wanting to go to that we had never heard of, so I got out the good ole' Lonely Planet and tried to find it. It was nowhere to be seen. After I showed her the empty space, she realised why it had not appeared. It was because it was a centre for China's space program and foreigners were not permitted into the area. I can't remember what is was called. However this flight is being launched from Jiuquan in Gansu, so I presume it's the same place.
The blast-off will occur after the staging of a successful Olympics and Paralympics -- events that helped boost national pride and thus the popularity of the leadership -- and ahead of China's National Day on October 1. China has even greater space ambitions, with an eventual plan to put a man on the moon by about 2020, according to some sections of China's state-run press.
Doubt there will be many foreign tourists there to gawp at the event, though.