The Guardian newspaper in England is reporting that China's state run television, CCTV, and China's space agency released a video animation of the just launched Tiangong 1 miniature space station showing extensive footage of rendezvous and docking maneuvers in Earth orbit that is inexplicably set to the tune of "America the Beautiful", a patriotic hymn that many American's regard as a second, unofficial national anthem. Watch the YouTube video above and decide yourself.
The Guardian writes; "While China's leaders were celebrating the triumphant launch of Tiangong-1 space lab on Thursday (Sept 29) , viewers of state television footage [CCTV] were treated to a bizarre choice of soundtrack: America the Beautiful".
Selecting "America the Beautiful' for the Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace 1) launch sound track seems rather questionable, says the Guardian, and it's hard to tell if this was choice was intentional or an error by the propaganda department
"Is this the work of an idealist seeking to usher in a new era of trans-Pacific co-operation, a nationalist who wants to colonise American culture as well as outer space, or simply a propaganda gaffe?" – wrote the Guardian. A CCTV official quoted by the Guardian could not offer any clarification.
"I don't know how to answer your question," Chen Zhansheng of the CCTV propaganda department said. "I cannot help you."
The CCTV website states that the animation was provided by the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and provides a detailed description. Since the Guardian's story, the animation has been deleted by CCTV.
The animation itself begins with a simulated launch of Tiangong-1 aboard the Long March 2F rocket and then shows the upcoming rendezvous and docking sequence with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned capsule that is set to launch in early November
Two days after blastoff of Shenzhou-8, it will complete China's first rendezvous and docking in space. After about 12 days, the two craft are due to uncouple.
China will then attempt another docking to gain more practice ahead of the launch of two manned Shenzhou capsules scheduled for 2012 (Shenzhou-9 and 10) with crews of two or three Chinese astronauts, one of whom may be a woman.
Check this action packed alternate version I found, in Chinese, which is set to different music and with even more extensive animation of the Tiangong 1/Shenzhou-8 joint mission.
One thing absolutely clear is that China is aggressively pushing forward with its manned space program, while the US space program retrenches due to continual budget cutbacks.
China plans to orbit a 60 ton, 3 module manned space station by 2020, about the time when the lifetime of the ISS may be coming to an end, unless the international partners agree to fund an extension of its orbital research activities.
The Chinese space station would be about the size of America's first space station – Skylab.
In the meantime, officials at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center report that they continue adjusting the orbit of the 10 meter long Tiangong-1 space lab module.
This post originally appeared on Universe Today.