By David Bandurski — As I was browsing through the news page at QQ.com today, I noticed something interesting about one of the photos popping up on their usual slideshow of featured stories. The image showed a booster from the multistage rocket that launched the Chinasat-9 direct-broadcast television satellite into orbit on June 9. It sat, a hulk of burned out technology, with the mountains of Guizhou rising in the distance. But close behind the booster — way too close for comfort — you could see the shingled tops of a pair of homes. “Woah!” I thought.
The accompanying news caption from the official China News Service took this all very much in stride:
On June 10, the wreckage of a booster rocket is seen in Jianggu Village, Zhenyuan County, of the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Minority Autonomous Prefecture of Guizhou Province. On June 9 at 8:15 p.m. our country’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center successfully sent our first direct broadcast satellite, the Zhongxing-9, into orbit with a Long March-3B rocket carrier. Several minutes after liftoff, four boosters successfully disengaged and landed safely in Zhenyuan, Qiandongnan.
Wait a minute. Is this the entire story? Can we have some responses from villagers, please? And perhaps a few comments from the good folks at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center? I mean, just look at this picture!
There were not many responses to the QQ item this afternoon, but I decided to click on the comments section just to see whether I was alone in being concerned about this. Here is what Chinese readers had to say:
From: not specified
“It looks like it’s right next to houses. Lucky it didn’t land right on the roofs!”
“How dangerous! If it had landed just a bit to one side it would have hit those houses. Can’t we think of a way to control where it comes down? Shouldn’t we avoid unfortunate accidents?”
“That first picture looks really dangerous . . . “
From: not specified
“I feel faint. It landed right next to that house!”
“I feel really awful about this somehow.”
There are now 253 responses to this news item on QQ. Here are a few more:
“Landing no more than 10 meters from a private residence — is that what you call success?”
“Even if it didn’t land on anyone, it’s not good to destroy the ecology either!”
“My heart felt cold when I saw that picture. What if it had hit someone? Did no one think of this before? If there’s a danger of injuring people in launching satellites, I’d rather they not do it. Human life is the most important thing. I hope this is a lesson to us. The lives of our brothers and sisters in the mountains are precious too.”
“That is so eco- unfriendly!”
“What are all of you fussing about? This is a good thing.”
“Is that really where they planned for it to land? How can it be so close to people’s homes?”
From: Lishui City
“Oh, Big Brother is really ingenious! I can’t stop laughing!”
“Oh, this is classic!”
UPDATE (1:09pm HK, June 12):
There are now 2,308 comments to this news item on QQ.
[Posted by David Bandurski, June 11, 2008, 2:53pm HK]