Story of Wan Hu — The first astronaut in the world

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Source: NASA: Wan Hoo and His Space Vehicle

The story about Wan Hu (Wan Hoo, 万虎) was a legend first described by American author Herbert S. Zim in his book “Rockets and Jets” in 1945. Since then, Wan has been considered as the world’s first recorded “astronaut”. But there has not been any Chinese source that confirmed the legend. Recently, I found a story about Tsien Hsue-shen (Qian Xuesen, 钱学森) from a Chinese literature in which Tsien told a story to young scientists that he learned from his Chinese advisor Wang Shizhuo: “The Story of Wan Hu”. It has a lot of details about the first astronaut in history. It even claims that Chinese invented two stage rocket earlier than anyone else It happened in the year of 1465. Believe it or not. Here I translated the story to English:

This story happened in China in 15th century.

That was during the 19th year of Chenghua Emperor (明朝宪宗) of Ming Dynasty (明朝). There was a young man from a rich family called Wan Hu. He had expertise in Shi Jing (诗经) and Classic of History (尚书), but he was not interested in taking entry exam for official positions because he did not like an official position, rather science. He was mostly interested in the Chinese ancient convention gun powder (火药) and rocket (火箭). He dreamed to send human being to the blue sky by using these two huge powers in order to eye witness the bird view of the world. For this purpose, he well prepared for his launch.

One day, he held two big kites and sit on a large snake shaped wicker flying chair to which were fastened 47 large rockets. Then he ordered his servants to ignite the first row of rockets. One servant came forward with a torch and told him Painfully: “My master, I am really scared.”

Wan Hu asked him: “What are you scared of?”

The servant said: “If you failed to raise to the sky, I am afraid that you may lose your life.”

Wan Hu laughed. He said, “Flying has been our Chinese dream for thousands of years. Today, I want to discover a new way to explore the heaven, even if I might be broken to pieces. You don’t need to be scared. Just ignite the engine!”

His servant had to follow his order by raising inflaming torch.

“Bang, Bang!” in a huge blast,the flying chair vehicle was surrounded by heavy smoke and Flames. Within a moment, the flying chair had left from the ground and had been accent to the sky.

While the crowd cheered, the second row of rockets were ignited automatically. Suddenly, a big explosion happened in the sky. The flying chair vehicle had become a big fire ball, Wan Hu had fallen out from his chair while he still held two huge burning kites. He hit the hill of Wan Jiashan.

This story showed that China is the first country that invented and developed two stage rockets.


Source: NASA: Virtual Aeronautics, 13th Through 16th Centuries


Source: Wan Hu Is In the Stars A Picture Book by Jennifer Armstrong


Source: Evidence of Wan Hu Rocket

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3 Responses to “Story of Wan Hu — The first astronaut in the world”

  1. Father of Chinese Space Program Qian Xuesen Died « Paviavio           Says:

    [...] Invited reading: A story that Qian Xuesen told Chinese space engineers: Story of Wan Hu — The first astronaut in the world. [...]

  2. Qian Xuesen handpicked Wang Yongzhi as chief architect « Paviavio           Says:

    [...] Story of Wan Hu — The first astronaut in the world [...]

  3. Four Ph.D. Students of Qian Xuesen at CalTech « Paviavio           Says:

    [...] of Chinese Space Program Qian Xuesen DiedQian Xuesen handpicked Wang YongzhiStory of Wan Hu — The first astronaut in the worldWho Invented the word [...]

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