Wonderfully Kitschy Propaganda Posters Champion the Chinese Space Program (1962-2003)
A joint operation of five participating countries and the European Space Agency, the International Space Station is an enormous achievement of human cooperation across ideological and national boundaries.
Generations of people born in the nineties and beyond will have grown up with the ISS as a symbol of the triumph of STEM education and decades of space travel and research.
What they will not have experienced is something that seems almost fundamental to the cultural and political landscape of the Boomers and Gen Xers—the Cold War space race.
But it is worth noting that while Russia is one of the most prominent partners in ISS operations, current Communist republic China has virtually no presence on it at all.
But this does not mean that China has been absent from the space race—quite the contrary.
While it seems to those of us who witnessed the exciting interstellar competition between superpowers that the only players were the big two, the Chinese entered the race in the 1960s and launched their first satellite in 1970.
This craft, writes space history enthusiast Sven Grahn, “would lead to China being a major player in the commercial space field.” Since its launch into orbit, the satellite has continuously broadcast a song called Dong Fang Hong, a eulogy for Mao Zedong (which “effectively replaced the National Anthem” during the Cultural Revolution.
The satellite, now referred to, after its song, as DFH-1 (or CHINA-1), marked a significant breakthrough for the Chinese space program, spearheaded by rocket engineer Qian Xuesen, who had been previously expelled from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena for suspected Communist sympathies.